Jane Austen and Representations of Regency England

By Roger Sales | Go to book overview

7

Sanditon: The madhouse and thegreenhouse

INTRODUCTION

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.


A DESERTED VILLAGE

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

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Jane Austen and Representations of Regency England
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Textual Note xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • Part I - The Regency Reproduced 1
  • 1 - Rewriting the Regency 3
  • Part II - The Regency Rediscovered 29
  • 2 - The Letters: Keeping and Losing Her Countenance 31
  • 3 - The Prince, the Dandy and the Crisis 56
  • Part III - The Political Condition of Regency England 85
  • 4 - Mansfield Park: The Regency Crisis and the Theatre 87
  • Part IV - The Sick Society: Leisure and Invalidism in the Later Writings 133
  • 5 - Emma: The Village and the Watering Place 135
  • 6 - Persuasion: The War and the Peace 171
  • 7 - Sanditon: The Madhouse and the Greenhouse 200
  • Appendix 222
  • Afterword 227
  • Notes 240
  • Select Bibliography 268
  • Index 271
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