How Jane Austen Did Money

In late 1810, Thomas Egerton of the Military Library agreed to publish Sense and Sensibility. It’s not clear how the manuscript came to Egerton, but Henry ’s army connections may have played a role. Egerton agreed to take the three-volume novel on commission, which meant that Austen bore the financial risk. She paid for printing, advertising, and distribution, but kept the copyright. Of course, “she paid” meant Henry did because Austen had no money of her own.

“No indeed, I am never too busy to think of S&S,” wrote Austen in the middle of correcting proofs in April 1811. “I can no more forget it, than a mother can forget her sucking child.” By the fall, the novel was fully typeset and a notice appeared in The Morning Chronicle on October 31, 1811, announcing “A New Novel by a Lady.” Austen would eventually make a profit of £140, no small sum for a woman who had never had her own money.

Jane Austen bore the financial risks of publishing her books, and insisted on remaining anonymous as she quietly wrote her other novels in a cottage in Chawton.

Related. Previously: Shakespeare

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