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Chapter 4 reveals the extent of Maria Edgeworth's participation in a form of networked authorship borne out in interactions with her family, previous texts, reviewers, and readers, which can be discerned within her revisions to four of her major novels: Belinda (1801), Patronage (1814), Harrington (1817), and Helen (1834). Her post-publication revisions to Belinda and Patronage are linked, especially in the case of the latter, to her interest in scientific and scholarly knowledge and her struggle to moderate her didactic moralism. This book discusses, for the first time, an early fragmentary version of Harrington, which contained an anti-semitic first-person narrator, which was removed before publication. Edgeworth’s published version was a departure from her usual didacticism, which she attenuated once more in the 1825 edition. Her final novel Helen and her unfinished fiction Take for Granted attest to, perhaps more than any other novels in this project, their collaborative origins: they were influenced by her family and her readers at all stages of the composition process.
Chapter 1 demonstrates that Richardson’s private and public readers participated in the authorship of and influenced the revisions to his novels. His first novel, Pamela (1740), is perhaps the most notorious object of eighteenth-century revision, given Richardson’s lengthy interactions with his readers and his concern about their responses. Richardson was goaded into writing a sequel to Pamela that was ironically indebted to the “fan fiction” he sought to disparage, in particular John Kelly’s Pamela’s Conduct in High Life (1741). His second novel, Clarissa (1747–48), was composed in consultation with his literary network, as he unhesitatingly added material to remove the nuance from Lovelace’s villainous character and incorporated sexually implicit material into the third edition. For his third novel, Sir Charles Grandison (1753–54), Richardson solicited letters from his friends in an attempt to create a fully collaborative final volume. Although only one of his correspondents attempted a letter, Richardson’s requests for and responses to model letters from his literary circle anticipate a type of social authorship that reached its fullest potential decades later.
The introduction explores the reasons why eighteenth-century authors decided to revise their novels and examines the trope of revision alongside advances in digital humanities, manuscript culture, novel studies, and actor-network theory. It opens with a discussion of Frances Burney’s Cecilia manuscript and the revelatory possibilities of revision, leading to a discussion of the novel genre during the eighteenth century as it was conceived by novelists themselves and the novel’s indebtedness to the dramatic and scholarly prose genres. The final section of the introduction applies Bruno Latour’s actor-network theory to delineate a model of eighteenth-century novel authorship that I term “networked authorship,” in which novelists, members of their literary and familial circles, reviewers, and their previous selves participate in the creation of a text.
The conclusion moves beyond Richardson, Burney, Austen, and Edgeworth to demonstrate the wide-ranging ramifications of networked authorship for other authors during the period. It was not necessary to be a member of an underprivileged group in order to be situated within an authorship network. Three of their well-educated male contemporaries were influenced by literary networks that inspired significant revisions to their most famous novels: Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy (1759–67), Matthew Lewis’s The Monk (1796), and William Godwin’s Caleb Williams (1794). The case studies of these three novels show that revision was a major tool of eighteenth-century composition practices and was linked to networked authorship, overturning spontaneous, individual conceptions of literary production during the period. The larger consequences of this study are for the categories of novel and author: by concentrating on revision, we can understand the mutability of the novel form and the networked nature of authorship.
Chapter 3 argues that Jane Austen revisited themes from her juvenilia in her published novels, especially Sense and Sensibility (1811) and Mansfield Park (1814), both of which were also lightly revised after initial publication in response to readers and reviewers. They display Austen’s concern with improving her texts and using accurate technical language. Austen’s cautionary stance on “sensibility,” especially female sensibility, within Sense and Sensibility was first developed within her juvenilia and functions as a critique of late eighteenth-century sentimental tropes. Austen’s ambiguous stance regarding the wild women of Mansfield Park, especially when interpreted through the lens of her earlier writings, can be read as an implicit criticism of the systems of female education and marriage that produce their immoral behavior. The chapter’s conclusion shows the culmination of Austen’s masterful revision practices in The Watsons (c.1803) and Persuasion (1817), which are linked to clear stylistic improvements and keen social commentary on the condition of women.
Chapter 2 reveals the frustrating and interminable process of revision for Frances Burney in a survey of all of her novels. Her first two novels, Evelina (1778) and Cecilia (1782), reveal that she submitted to the actual and perceived criticisms of family and friends in ways that diminished her initial innovative aims, including the deletion of a scene containing satanic rites in her Cecilia manuscript. Burney’s last two novels evince a reversal in her revision practices and display her later-in-life tendencies toward verbal excess. Her post-publication revisions to Camilla (1796) show her inability to moderate repetitive characterization and Gothicize her text in the case of the tantalizingly unfinished third edition. As with her changes to later editions of Camilla, Burney’s planned revisions to The Wanderer (1814) were motivated by her dissatisfaction with negative reviews and her unwillingness to relinquish control of her novels. Her final revisions demonstrate her recognition of the never-ending potential of the early novel form.
Revisions form a natural part of the writing process, but is the concept of revision actually an intrinsic part of the formation of the novel genre? Through the recovery and analysis of material from novel manuscripts and post-publication revisions, Hilary Havens identifies a form of 'networked authorship'. By tracing authors' revisions to their novels, the influence of familial and literary circles, reviewers, and authors' own previous writings can be discerned. Havens focuses on the work of Samuel Richardson, Frances Burney, Jane Austen, and Maria Edgeworth to challenge the individualistic view of authorship that arose during the Romantic period, and argues that networked authorship shaped the composition of eighteenth-century novels. Exploring these themes of collaboration and social networks, as well as engaging with the burgeoning trend towards textual recovery, this work is an important contribution in the study of eighteenth-century novels and their manuscript counterparts.