MS. Egerton 3038, British Library, London

See diplomatic display

The two manuscript chapters of Persuasion possess unique status in being, as far as we know, the only surviving holograph pages of a novel that Jane Austen planned and completed for publication. They have survived in part because in their extant form they did not see print in the posthumous first edition of 1818, being withdrawn and replaced at a late stage in writing. They were intended as the concluding chapters (10 and 11 in the second and final volume) of the novel. The manuscript fragment, an untitled,1 unpaginated single gathering of sixteen leaves, is dated in three places: at the top right hand corner of the first leaf, immediately above ‘Chap. 10’, ‘July 8’; at the bottom right hand corner of what would be p. 27 (f.14r), ‘July 16. | 1816’; and at the bottom right hand corner of p.28 (f.14v) ‘July 18. - 1816.’ The ending that the manuscript represents was subsequently almost wholly rejected in favour of the ending that found its way into print, written some time between 18 July and 6 August (according to Cassandra Austen’s memorandum).2 The last leaf (p.32; f.16v) has pasted lengthwise a strip of paper on which is written in pencil, traced over in ink, ‘The contents of this Drawer | for Anna’. The hand appears to be that of Cassandra Austen. James Edward Austen-Leigh first mentioned the existence of the manuscript fragment in his Memoir of Jane Austen, where he derived his circumstantial account from family recollections. He subsequently included an edited version of the cancelled Chapter 10 in the 1871 edition.3 Both manuscript chapters were transcribed for the first time in Chapman’s Two Chapters of Persuasion of 1926.


In 1870, when Austen-Leigh brought it to public notice, the manuscript was in the possession of his half-sister Anna Lefroy (1793-1872). She appears to have inherited it according to the stipulations of the slip of paper pasted lengthways to its last leaf. The manuscript remained in family hands until it was acquired by the British Museum in December 1925.4

Physical structure

Made up of sixteen unnumbered leaves of laid paper, originally quired into a single gathering, each leaf has been separated, trimmed, foliated, and mounted by the British Library into a handsome morocco bound volume. The trimmed leaves measure 155 x 90 mm; they are watermarked ‘1812’, though, from the cutting of the leaves, there is no complete mark visible. Page 28 (f. 14v) forms the final page of Chapter 11. The final two leaves (ff. 15 and 16) contain an additional passage of text marked by X to be included at p. 16 (f. 8v) of Chapter 10. At p. 19 (f. 10r) a piece of paper (a little under half the size of the original page) was pasted down cancelling the writing underneath and containing a revised portion of text, fourteen lines long. This pasted paper has been separated and mounted on a guard above the original. Integral to the modern binding of the volume and before the mounted manuscript leaves there are seven unfoliated preliminary leaves [inferred pagination pp. i-xiv in the pagination table below]. A further nineteen unfoliated leaves [inferred pagination pp. xv-lii in the pagination table below] follow the mounted manuscript pages. These modern leaves are blank apart from a library stamp [p. i] and a page with a pencilled collation schema [p. vii], illustrating the foliation of the manuscript before its leaves were separated and library mounted.

Pagination and physical structures as they are recorded in the digital edition: front (left) board; front (left) pastedown; [p. i-p. xiv]; [p. 1-p. 19a]; [p. 19- p. 32a]; [p. xv-p. lii]; back (right) pastedown; back (right) board

where [p. 19a] is with patch and [p.19] is without patch; [p. 29-p. 32] are both the last pages of the manuscript and a section of text to be inserted at [p. 16] (keyed to X); [p. 32] has tipped in lengthwise a pencilled note, subsequently inked over written by Cassandra Austen, described as [p. 32a].

The manuscript

The manuscript is written and corrected throughout in brown iron-gall ink. There is no pagination, no clear or regular paragraphing, and no separation of speaking parts one from another. Chapter divisions are clearly marked. The pages are filled in an even hand with signs of concurrent writing, erasure, and revision, and several passages of heavy deletion and substitution: some of the rewriting is interlinear, and some required extending the space of the already full page in different ways. With no calculated blank spaces and no obvious way of incorporating large revision or expansion she had to find other strategies – the pasted patch and the longer passage, written on the last three pages of the booklet and keyed for insertion at page 16.5


The novel was apparently without title at Austen’s death. According to family tradition, ‘The Elliots’ was her preference among several working titles. See Deirdre Le Faye, Jane Austen: A Family Record (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), p. 238. Back to context...
See Morgan Library, MA 2911.12, Cassandra Austen’s memorandum of the dates of composition of Austen’s novels. Back to context...
A Memoir of Jane Austen (London: Richard Bentley, 1870), pp. 124-25; A Memoir of Jane Austen (2nd edn, London: Richard Bentley & Son, 1871), pp. 167-80; Two Chapters of Persuasion [ed. R. W. Chapman] (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1926); reprinted as The Manuscript Chapters of Persuasion (London: Athlone Press, 1985); Gilson F8. A detailed catalogue record for Persuasion can be found in the British Library’s online manuscript catalogue Back to context...
Report in The Times, 14 December 1925, p. 11. Back to context...
Kathryn Sutherland, Jane Austen’s Textual Lives: From Aeschylus to Bollywood (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), pp. 148-68. Back to context...