Wednesday 21 March 2018

Jane Austen manuscript fetches €1.1m

The earliest surviving Jane Austen manuscript, a handwritten draft for a book that was never published, sold for €1.1m at Sotheby's today.

The manuscript for "The Watsons" was bought by an anonymous telephone bidder for more than three times the top estimate.

Gabriel Heaton, Sotheby's senior specialist in the books and manuscript department, said he was delighted with the Austen sale.

"The sale of The Watsons has afforded an extremely broad audience an insight into the author's writing process and reworkings, which this manuscript uniquely displays," he said.

The manuscript comprises 68 pages, arranged in 11 loose gatherings and written in Austen's small hand, peppered with revisions throughout.

Probably written in 1804, it tells the story of Emma Watson, the youngest of four sisters who is raised by a wealthy aunt but then forced to return to her family while two of her sisters search for husbands.

The novel is only a quarter complete but critic Margaret Drabble described it as "a tantalising, delightful and highly accomplished fragment, which must surely have proved the equal of her other six novels, had she finished it".

Meanwhile, the family passport of literary giant James Joyce has also gone under the hammer and sold for €69,747.

Nora Barnacle is included in the wartime passport as Mr Joyce’s wife even though they eloped from Ireland in 1904 but didn’t married until 1931.

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