This final chapter begins by showing how Austen’s representation of the development of Sanditon as a Regency watering place raises Condition-of-England themes. It then explores in more detail the satire on the culture of invalidism. The conclusion takes the form of a reading of one of the completed versions of Austen’s text by a modern writer. It is argued that this particular text seeks to suppress Austen’s specifically Regency themes and styles.
Austen began writing Sanditon at the end of January 1817. Her deteriorating health forced her to abandon her most stinging satire on the culture of invalidism towards the end of March when she had almost completed the twelfth chapter. She died four months later. Protest movements against the Regent and his ministers became more visible in the immediate post-war period. There were food riots in East Anglia and elsewhere, as well as violent political demonstrations at Spa Fields in London. The re-emergence of radicalism allowed Cobbett’s Political Register to increase its circulation. Roberts notices that a number of Austen’s characters express fears about the working classes. 1 At a more general level, Sanditon represents the highly precarious nature of post-war society.
There are bound to be disagreements about just how unedited the surviving text remains. Some critics see it as a first draft that would probably have changed its countenance quite considerably before publication. Others argue that it is a good first draft which had already been edited in the process of writing. The state of the manuscript itself lends some support to the second view. 2 The other main area of disagreement is over whether the novel as it stands suggests new