October 21 1815: Henry Writes for Jane to Murray


On October 20 and continuing into October 21 1815, Henry Austen, who is very ill, dictates a letter to John Murray. Henry is writing the letter on behalf of his sister Jane to reply to Murray’s offer to pay sum of £450 for the copyright of Emma, Mansfield Park, and Sense and Sensibility. Murray is interested in publishing Emma. Henry is not impressed with the terms, and suggests “some great Error in my Arithmetical Calculation”.

Dear Sir – Severe Illness has confined me to my Bed ever since I received Yours of ye 15th – I cannot yet hold a pen, & employ an Amuensis. – The Politeness & Perspicuity of your Letter equally claim my earliest Exertion. – Your official opinion of the Merits of Emma, is very valuable & satisfactory. – Though I venture occasionally from your Critique, yet I assure you that the Quantum of your commendation rather exceeds than falls short of the Author’s expectation & my own. – The Terms you offer are so very inferior to what we had expected, that I am apprehensive of having made some great Error in my Arithmetical Calculation. – On the subject of the expense & profit of publishing, you must be much better informed than I am; – but Documents in my possession appear to prove that the Sum offered by you for the Copyright of Sense & Sensibility, Mansfield Park & Emma, is not equal to the Money which my Sister has actually cleared by one very moderate Edition of Mansfield Park – (You Yourself expressed astonishment that so small an Edit: of such a work should have been sent into the World) & still a smaller one of Sense & Sensibility. – …

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