In mid-June, I read the unfinished classic, The Watsons by Jane Austen, which was the last unread work in a collection of Austen’s short/unfinished works I have. Having already enjoyed Sanditon and Lady Susan from the collection, I tucked myself in bed early one evening with this, hoping for another easy, comforting escapist read.
The Watsons begins the tale of Emma Watson, as she reunites with her estranged father and siblings, after the remarriage of her aunt who had raised her. Emma is a kind, well-educated, refined and optimistic young woman, who is initially delighted with her new life of family, society and balls. However Emma is soon to realise that her family harbours many ill feelings, particularly springing from the sisters’ hopes – and disappointments – in snaring a husband! Especially when Emma inadvertently catches the eye of the eligible Tom Musgrove…
And sadly that’s where this abandoned novel ends… It is believed Austen probably began writing The Watsons about 1803, so some years before ill health stopped her writing Sanditon in 1817. Which leaves it unclear why she never finished this, although she clearly had intentions to as she spoke to her beloved sister, Cassandra about her future intentions for Emma and her love interests, that were helpfully included in my collection. While it was nice to know how things turned out for our heroine and have some resolution for the story, it was also quite a massive tease!
That we even have this fragment at all is down to Jane Austen’s nephew, James Edward Austen-Leigh, who published it in 1871, along with Sanditon, as part of his memoirs. In fact, Austen had even left her manuscript untitled, so the title “The Watsons” was also provided by Austen-Leigh. I for one am very grateful to Austen-Leigh, as while this isn’t finished, I still think it is a lovely start to what I am sure would have been a delightfully witty and exquisitely drawn portrait of rural, genteel family life.
And that is all I can say really. Inconclusion, I thought The Watsons by Jane Austen was a nice, short escapist read, just a shame there wasn’t more of it! I believe several people have tried to finish the story, so I am wondering if I should try one of these to see the story fleshed out more? Especially now I have ran out of new Austen material! 😥 Good read.
I’d love to hear your thoughts: Have you read this? Or have you read any of Jane Austen’s other short works? Does anyone know if there is an adaptation of it?
This is book #18 off my Classics Club II list.