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…)
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.
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).