Jane Austen or William Gifford?

According to Oxford University English professor Kathryn Sutherland, Jane Austen was a poor speller and erratic grammarian who got a big helping hand from her editor  William Gifford.

After studying 1,100 handwritten pages of unpublished work from the pen of Jane Austen, the professor concluded that they contradicted the claim by Austen’s brother Henry that “everything came finished from her pen.”

“In reading the manuscripts, it quickly becomes clear that this delicate precision is missing,” Sutherland said, “The papers show blots, crossings out, messiness,”  She added that Jane Austen was a writer who “broke most of the rules for writing good English.  In particular, the high degree of polished punctuation and epigrammatic style we see in ‘Emma’ and ‘Persuasion’ is simply not there”.

Seemingly there was less editing to be seen in Austen’s earlier books such as “Sense and Sensibility” and “Pride and Prejudice,” whose inconsistencies have sometimes been blamed on bad printing.  Personally I prefer both these books to her later works. 

Advertisements

I am a director of the Learn English Network. A non-profit organisation registered in the UK dedicated to helping people learning English and people who teach English online.

Learn English 2020