This review is due to appear in ECCB: The Eighteenth-Century Current Bibliography. Spring 2013.
The 2nd volume is shorter than I cd wish — but the difference is not so much in reality as in look, there being a larger proportion of Narrative in that Part … (Austen, on the proofs of first edition of Pride and Prejudice, 29 January 1813)
Todd, Janet and Linda Bree, eds. Jane Austen: Later Manuscripts. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Pp. Cxxix + 742; illustrations; notes.
In their introduction to the last volume of Austen's texts in this extensively-annotated and ostentatiously-advertised set of Austen-centered books by Cambridge – it's described as “the definitive edition for the twenty-first century” – Todd and Bree write of their slice of Austen's writings that these “suggest a greater range” of character types, perspectives, moods, themes and milieus, sheer interests as well as kinds of writing than we find in “the finished novels” (xxxii). Their hope is for their volume to provide a site where readers can “explore” these “documents” as “original artefacts” before they were conventionalized by publishing practices (cxxix). The volume does facilitate geologizing in Austen's process of writing and texts outside the famous canon of six. Its problem is the editors have not dealt decisively enough with the intriguing nature of its oddments, for what it consists of (outside of Austen's letters which the Cambridge edition does not include) is everything else by Austen, everything left over or not published in Cambridge's previous seven volumes.
As it happens, what they have been left with are Austen's later unpublished writings, later both in the sense of Austen's writing life (all written after she left Steventon or post-1801) and of the much later posthumous publication (all published after her nephew, James-Edward Austen-Leigh's memoir about her, or post-1870). (Northanger Abbey and Persuasion are posthumous publications, with Persuasion especially unfinished.) What the editors needed to do was the hard work of deciding on a clear chronology for their texts and what each should be placed with or contextualized by. Without a chronology controlling the volume how can one see a development? In addition, their placement sometimes contradicts the arguments they present for dating or probable attribution. Thus the volume is disorganized, set up inconveniently, and frustratingly incomplete on its own terms.
After Todd and Bree's brief preface summarizing their editorial procedures, a chronology of Austen's life and texts taken over from Deirdre LeFaye and an Austen family tree, and their long introductions (with notes at the bottom of the page), the book is divided into three central parts. The first part is called “The Fiction” and consists of a close transcription of Austen's hand-written fair copy of Lady Susan as punctuated, capitalized and spelled by her (xv), with the important exceptions that Lady Susan is printed in conventional book-looking terms preceding similarly printed versions of The Watsons and Sanditon, themselves emended to “reflect basic publishing conventions” of the early 19th century (xvi-xvii). Even though they themselves inexplicably and suddenly date Lady Susan as written first in 1793-94 (probably in deference to Southam and tradition), since their own arguments and the critics and contexualizing texts they discuss (e.g., Marilyn Butler) turn the Lady Susan we have into a genuinely later text (1805-1809), it ought to have come between The Watsons and Sanditon.
Separated off into long appendices (A and B) after the book's main sections are diplomatic transcriptions of The Watsons and Sanditon. These should rightly be with these doctored printed texts. They say that their procedure for their printing of Lady Susan makes no diplomatic transcript necessary, but since they themselves argue, all these transcripts are so precious because they enable us to study the development of Austen's fiction in her later years, the omission of diplomatic transcripts of the two rejected last chapters of Persuasion is crippling. The Cambridge edition of Persuasion edited by Janet Todd and Antje Blank does not contain a diplomatic transcript but rather a hard-to-read photographic fascimile of Austen's working papers. In his privately-printed Jane Austen Caught in the Act of Greatness, Arthur M. Axelrod showed the manuscripts of Sanditon to Persuasion were chronologically written in close promixity and he only began the process of comparing.
The second part is called “Jane Austen on Fiction” whose goal, so Todd and Bree tell us, is to present Jane Austen's “theory of fiction.” But it consists just of four, what's left of a fifth, and parts of a sixth letter by Jane Austen to one of her novel-writing nieces, Anna Austen Lefroy (Austen's oldest brother, James's oldest daughter). These texts are followed by Austen's late concise burlesque of a romance novel, “Plan of a Novel,” with its satiric barbs at various individuals (several of those targeted in the “Plan”) , and then jotted down “Opinions of Mansfield Park” and “Opinions of Emma that Austen herself compiled.
For the stated purpose of studying Austen's theory of fiction (if she had one), the section is useless. We cannot know what Austen thought of the mix of inane, off-the-cuff, hostile and minimally thoughtful comments she was (presumably) told others said or overheard, but her “Plan” is partly aimed at the individuals whose opinions grated on her. It is also a parody of specific texts (e.g., Sophie Cottin's Elisabeth, ou les Exiles de Siberie, 1806, and enormously popular in a translated abridged text). The letters to Anna are simply lifted from Lefaye's edition and have thus lost their needed explanatory autobiographical contexts. While five are about the same (since destroyed) novel, they are (to use Reiman's terms) private manuscripts, not meant to be read generally and addressed to Anna.1 The last of these letters (most of which Anna later tore off) is patently intended to soothe an anxious perhaps hurt niece eager to please her aunt by inventing characters which flatter her aunt.
One is tempted to suggest the selection should include Austen's 16-17 December 1816 letter to the same James-Edward Austen Leigh who wrote the memoir on his and her fiction); and (since the editors are willing to excerpt), the numerous, brief and explicit, but not indeterminate or uncountable comments Austen makes on her own fiction and the fiction of others throughout her letters and occasionally in her fiction. Chapman's literary appendix to his edition of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, and LeFaye's indexes to her fourth edition of the letters makes such a collection feasible. The problem is (as Todd and Bree's emphases in their introduction to this material implies) their aim was equally or rather to make visible Austen's special relationship to this thwarted writing niece (xcv-xcvi, c-ci), and thus replace the traditional attention paid to another of Austen's nieces, Fanny Austen Knight (Austen's rich brother, Edward Austen-Knight's oldest daughter) and Austen's five extant letters to her on courtship and marriage.
For example, they discuss Anna's unfinished continuation of Sanditon as well as The Younger Sister, a completion of The Watsons by Catherine Anne Hubbard, a third niece (one of Austen's sailor brother Frank's daughters) who became a professional novelist for a time (Cavan-James). They also discuss the adapted play, Sir Charles Grandison as a collaboration of aunt and niece, which would make it belong by right to a section on the aunt and niece. It may have surfaced in their volume since it had been excluded from the Cambridge Juvenilia volume (where it could probably be appropriately chronologically placed), but given their account of it, it confusingly appears in a separate appendix near the back of the book (556-72).
The third major (but short) section, “ Poems and  Charades” by Austen is also fleshed out by appendices. Appendix F consists of three bout-rimés chosen from the array of verse by family members (first published by David Selwyn). These seem to have been selected because one has been “attributed” to Austen (it's clearly hers). Were Todd and Bree serious about presenting Austen's theory of fiction or making their volume a site for an innovative exploration of Austen's texts (and thus life story), they should have included James, her older brother's poem connecting both heroines of Sense and Sensibility to aspects of his sister's personality, and James-Edward Austen-Leigh's poem to his aunt on her comic figures in Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice.
They relegate a poem in Austen's hand given to a volume she gave to Anna Lefroy, “Sigh Lady sigh, hide not the tear that's stealing”) to a separate appendix (E), since they reject all previous attributions and explanations and suggest that “some other contemporary” wrote this poem in the margins of Anna's book (cxxvi). Who they cannot say. LeFaye is on record arguing it is by Austen but to Cassandra (Notes and Queries, 2:49 :222-26). I suggest it is what it seems to be, by Austen and to Anna and belongs with Austen's burlesque poem to this same niece a number of years later (compare 251-52 with 577-78).
The inconsistencies and awkward arrangement of the appendices may also be seen in Todd and Bree's treatment of three prayers attributed to Austen since the 1920s (cxviii-cxx). These are treated as anomalous texts whose attribution to Austen “troubles” Todd and Bree more than any other (despite acceptance by, among others, Chapman, LeFaye and Southam). Yet the prayers are printed as works whose attribution to Austen they have not altogether rejected (Appendix D).
Finally, placed at the very back of the book, there are 240 pages of explanatory notes for the three main sections of the volume but no notes provided for any appendix. The volume presents itself as meant for a common reader, but the notes veer between explanations of the sort one might find in editions intended for common readers, high school and college students, and erudite intertextual and historical scholarship intended for scholars of Austen and eighteenth-century history.
It is germane to bring in Brian Southam's Jane Austen: A Student's Guide to the Later Manuscript Works (London: Concord Books, 2007), since he writes that he was the editor originally assigned to this volume and the long introduction and copious notes without any texts that comprise this book were intended for this Later Manuscripts volume (vii). Unlike Todd and Bree whose introductions consist of brief histories of their texts' publications as books and critical interpretations, Southam's introduction offers a detailed account of their history as manuscripts, and discusses the work of a few (not all) of those critics who have used these to understand the development of Austen's work and the nature of her art and writing process (e.g., Mary Lascelles, A. Walton Litz, Q. D. Leavis, Southam himself and Kathryn Sutherland). He also covers the more popular editions (since Chapman) of Austen's juvenilia and later manuscripts, which have added to our understanding of them (e.g., Drabble's Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sanditon for Penguin, Margaret Anne Doody and Douglas Murray's Catherine and Other Writings [the Juvenilia] for Oxford). He explains why if Lady Susan is categorized as juvenilia (which Todd and Bree say it must), it appears in a volume of “later manuscripts:” Southam defines later as post-1794-95; this is unhelpful as it categorizes all Austen's work from the very first versions of the Steventon novels (First Impressions, Elinor and Marianne and Susan) to Sanditon as“later.” Southam's classification eliminates the useful category of mid-career, to which two of the texts in this volume, The Watsons and Lady Susan, belong (Kaplan). Nonetheless, his book is clearly a required companion volume for a reader using Todd and Bree.
Even without a coherent usable framework and without the rejected manuscript chapters of Persuasion and with conventionalized and emended versions of Lady Susan, The Watsons, and Sanditon Todd and Bree's volume is valuable. Its contents are texts still little known by many readers and rarely bought together in one volume for the scholar . We glimpse an important relationship with a genuinely gifted niece, and are told of a variety of important linked texts. New lines of inquiry are opened up when we are made to think of Austen's works in their manuscript stage before (as Todd and Bree put it) “stabilization” (cxxix). With all Austen's known poems and the playlet, Grandison here, the diligent student can still take a journey of sorts through Austen's early, mid-career and texts written during the crisis of her fatal illness. The volume's worst fault is its price puts it out of the reach of all but libraries.
1 For full argument about how Todd and Bree fail to distinguish fair copies meant to substitute for publication by Austen, and private letters meant for the eyes of one person, see "Jane Austen's unpublished writing in context; or, Jane Austen her own Vanity Press."