BLUE PENCIL

Jane Austen's Work Heavily Edited

It is a sad day for English majors. Jane Austen’s delicately crafted style of prose may not have actually been her own. Like so many other great writers, Austen had the silent work of an editor to thank. The claim that Austen had help was made by Kathryn Sutherland, a professor at Oxford, who has spent the last three years studying 1,100 original handwritten pages of the novelist’s unpublished work. "The polished punctuation and epigrammatic style we see in Emma and Persuasion is simply not there," Sutherland said. She added that the manuscripts are messy, feature plenty of crossing out, and demonstrate "a powerful counter-grammatical way of writing.” Sutherland believes that the editor who may have helped her achieve her refined style was William Gifford, who worked for Austen's publisher John Murray II. Still, it isn’t all bad news for Austen fans. Sutherland added that the manuscripts showed "to be even better at writing dialogue and conversation than the edited style of her published novels suggest."