Read Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts Free Online


“Cur­rent­ly, it seems, Jane Austen is hot­ter than Quentin Taran­ti­no.” Mar­tin Amis wrote this in the New York­er back in 1996, when Taran­ti­no had cul­tur­al heat to spare. Even today, as the film­mak­er rides high on anoth­er one of his peri­od­ic waves of pop-cul­tur­al exu­ber­ance and con­tro­ver­sy-court­ing vio­lence, Austen may still win the pop­u­lar­i­ty con­test. Her much-read, often-adapt­ed sec­ond nov­el Pride and Prej­u­dice has, in fact, just passed its 200th anniver­sary of pub­li­ca­tion, and its rep­u­ta­tion as a reli­ably sharp and engag­ing com­e­dy seems stronger than ever.

Espe­cial­ly strik­ing for a nov­el of its age, this rep­u­ta­tion appears to have also grown wider than ever. Though some have always dis­missed her — and will always dis­miss her — as a writer of mere roman­tic fic­tion meant sole­ly for women, admi­ra­tion for Austen knows no demo­graph­ic bound­aries. Just look at her high-pro­file liv­ing male enthu­si­asts, a group that ranges from Amis to ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist and essay­ist Paul Gra­ham, who names Austen as one of his heroes. “In her nov­els I can’t see the gears at work,” Gra­ham writes. “Though I’d real­ly like to know how she does what she does, I can’t fig­ure it out, because she’s so good that her sto­ries don’t seem made up.”

“When I was intro­duced to the nov­el, at the age of four­teen,” Amis writes of Pride and Prej­u­dice, “I read twen­ty pages and then besieged my stepmother’s study until she told me what I need­ed to know. I need­ed to know that Dar­cy mar­ried Eliz­a­beth. (I need­ed to know that Bin­g­ley mar­ried Jane.) I need­ed this infor­ma­tion as bad­ly as I had ever need­ed any­thing. Pride and Prej­u­dice suck­ers you. Amaz­ing­ly — and, I believe, unique­ly — it goes on suck­er­ing you.” And if that 200-year-old nov­el fails to suck­er you, per­haps its 202-year-old pre­de­ces­sor Sense and Sen­si­bil­i­ty or its 199-year-old suc­ces­sor Mans­field Park will. You can browse Austen’s hand-writ­ten man­u­scripts per­tain­ing to these and oth­er of her nov­els in Jane Austen’s Fic­tion Man­u­scripts, an online joint project from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Oxford and King’s Col­lege Lon­don. Austen’s fan­base, per­haps because of its broad­ness, seems to con­tain rel­a­tive­ly few obses­sive exegetes (com­pared to, say, acolytes of Thomas Pyn­chon), but you can only read her six nov­els so many times before feel­ing a need, if a vain one, to glimpse those “gears at work.” And if this con­tact with Austen’s cre­ative spir­it moves you to write your own adap­ta­tion of Pride and Prej­u­dice, why not think out­side the box and check on Taran­ti­no’s avail­abil­i­ty to direct?

Copies of Pride and Prej­u­dice can be found in our col­lec­tion of Free Audio Books and Free eBooks.

You can also down­load free audio ver­sions of Jane Austen nov­els if you take part in the free tri­al pro­grams offered by and

Relat­ed con­tent:

Jane Austen’s Fight Club

Dominic West (aka Jim­my McNul­ty) Reads Jane Austen

Niet­zsche, Melville, Jane Austen & More: The Lat­est Audio Book Clas­sics Released by Lib­rivox

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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  • “You can browse Austen’s hand-writ­ten man­u­scripts per­tain­ing to these and oth­er of her nov­els in Jane Austen’s Fic­tion Man­u­scripts, an online joint project from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Oxford and King’s Col­lege Lon­don.”

    Alas, while that web­site IS a won­der­ful resource, there is NO man­u­script copy of ANY por­tion of the six com­plet­ed nov­els. Those man­u­scripts con­sist pri­mar­i­ly of her Juve­nil­ia, but also the “frag­ments” (incom­plete works like The Wat­sons and San­di­ton), and some oth­er short adult writ­ings. That web­site also does not include man­u­scripts of the sur­viv­ing 154 let­ters.

    The only thing we’ve got that DOES relate to any of the six com­plet­ed nov­els are the so-called “can­celled chap­ters” of Per­sua­sion, mean­ing, a ver­sion of the final few chap­ters of the nov­el that she wrote long­hand and pre­served, even though she then prompt­ly REwrote it a few days lat­er, replac­ing a weak­er roman­tic cli­max with Per­sua­sion’s now famous STRONG roman­tic cli­max (“You pierce my soul…”.

    And by the way, there IS some­thing ELSE going on in her nov­els that has not been understood.…till now:

    Cheers, ARNIE
    @JaneAustenCode on Twit­ter

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