Mini-Post | Austen, “Emma” and the Prince Regent

On this day in 1815, the Prince Regent, the future George IV, received a specially bound copy of Jane Austen’s novel “Emma”, which had been dedicated to him.

The Prince Regent was definitely not a favourite of Austen’s – she once wrote that she supported his estranged wife, Caroline of Brunswick, against him – which is why the dedication is not the most effusive. (Perhaps the understatement of the year…)

The dedication to the Prince Regent.

However, rather ironically, the Prince was a real fan of Austen’s work. He was one of the first people to purchase her first novel, “Sense and Sensibility”, and it was said that he kept copies of her novels in each of his residences.

Because of this, Austen was invited to tour the Prince’s library at Carlton House (where the specially bound copy of “Emma” was eventually delivered to) and also to dedicate her next work to him, which she couldn’t really refuse. “Emma” was then published two days after the Prince Regent received his copy, on December 23rd, and due to being so close to the new year, had the date 1816 printed on its title page.

Read more about the Prince Regent and Jane Austen at the Georgian Papers Project, the New York Times and the Guardian.

For invaluable detail about the publication of Austen’s novels, check out David Gilson’s chapter “Editions and Publishing History” in “The Jane Austen Companion”, edited by D. J. Grey, W. A. Litz, B. C. Southam and H. A. Bok (New York: Macmillan, 1986).

One comment

  1. I wonder if the Prince Regent enjoyed ‘slumming’ it among the minor gentry and their associates when he read his Austen novels, their lives must’ve have been like a foreign country to him! I liked Emma but I think I’d choose to reread another Austen novel before this, maybe Mansfield Park or Persuasion. But first, as always, I must finish the juvenilia, having got to Volume II of the three volumes she wrote.

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