The Restless Comedy of Jane Austen

Was there ever a fragment like Jane Austen’s Sanditon? The distinguished novelist suffering a long decline—her brother Henry alleged that “the symptoms of a decay, deep and incurable, began to show themselves in the commencement of 1816″—used her last months to compose a work that mocks energetic hypochondriacs and departs radically from the increasing emphasis on the interior life marking the previous novels.

However weak her body—and she wrote some passages first in pencil, being unable to cope with a pen—clearly her spirit was robust. Not only that: worrying herself sick about money after a family bankruptcy, she was writing a book of jokes about risky investments and comic speculators. 

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