Jane Austen's EDGAR & EMMA: a novel based on a short story
A full-length novel based on the brilliantly funny story Austen wrote as a teenager—by the author of BITCH IN A BONNET.
Somewhere around 1790, the teenage Jane Austen wrote a story called Edgar & Emma.
It begins thusly:
“I cannot imagine,” said Sir Godfrey to his Lady, “why we continue in such deplorable Lodgings as these, in a paltry Market-town, while we have 3 good Houses of our own situated in some of the finest parts of England, and perfectly ready to receive us!”
Four pages later, its final chapter concludes:
It was with difficulty that Emma could refrain from tears on hearing of the absence of Edgar; she remained however tolerably composed till the Willmot's were gone when having no check to the overflowings of her greif, she gave free vent to them, and retiring to her own room, continued in tears the remainder of her Life.
Pardon me, but four pages to get from that opener to that closer? Not. Nearly. Enough.
And I aim to fix that.
Some of you may know me; I’m longtime novelist and memoirist, as well as the author of Bitch In a Bonnet: Reclaiming Jane Austen from the Stiffs, the Snobs, the Simps and the Saps, which started out as a blog (you can still see it here) and was then collected into two volumes.
The project’s goal was to obliterate the idea of Jane Austen as “a particular kind of woman's writer, quaint and darling, doe-eyed and demure, parochial if not pastoral, and dizzily, swooningly romantic—the inventor and mother goddess of ‘chick lit.’” My view of her is pretty much the opposite:
Jane Austen was—is—a sly subversive, a clear-eyed social Darwinist, and the most unsparing satirist of her century. She's wicked, arch, and utterly merciless. She skewers the pompous, the pious, and the libidinous with the animal glee of a natural-born sadist. She takes sharp, swift swipes at the social structure and leaves it, not lethally wounded, but shorn of it prettifying garb, its flabby flesh exposed in all its naked grossness. And then she laughs.
I spent five years live-blogging the Austen canon, endeavoring to prove my point; and then another year editing the posts for publication. I’m happy to say the books are selling briskly, and making me some wonderfully smart and funny new friends along the way.
But I’ve missed being actually immersed in Austen’s world—in that high-stakes, take-no-prisoners arena where every dinner party is a cage match, and every country dance a theater of war. And so I decided to put on my body armor and go back in…and since I’m principally a writer of fiction, this time I’d go as a novelist.
Alas, the market for Austen sequels has been pretty well saturated with endless extensions of the standard canon. We’ve lurked downstairs at Longbourn and witnessed murder at Pemberley; we’ve seen Austen heroines fight zombies and sea monsters, and even more fantastically, learned that Lady Catherine de Bourgh is an okay broad when you get to know her. We’ve watched Fitzwilliam Darcy sleeping, brushing his teeth, putting his breeches on, taking his breeches off, filling his ink pot, and trying to scratch that place on his back he can’t quite reach—all of which still isn’t enough Fitzwilliam Darcy for some people.
So it made sense to avoid Austen’s Big Six. And since we've also seen a few attempts to conclude the novels she left unfinished, I decided to go the other direction and dip back into her juvenilia, where her sheer invention and brazen sense of humor are at their most gloriously unfettered. This is the Austen I fell in love with, and whose spirit I see continuing—more calibrated, more focused, and more controlled (but for those reasons more devastating)—in her mature novels.
I've chosen to revisit Emma & Edgar and expand it into a full-length novel, fitted out with all the trademark Austen features: a rival, a cad, several grotesques, at least one character who is genetically hard-wired to talk incessantly, an inheritance or two, a dinner party, a ball, a misunderstanding, a discovery—and ultimately a clear, clean, reasonable resolution that results in a marriage. (But not a wedding. Weddings bored Austen stupid. She inevitably relegated them to the margins. If she could’ve gotten away without mentioning them at all, she would have.)
Over the past few months, I've managed, by sneaking time in where I could, to make a happy dent in my version of Edgar & Emma; you can read the first several chapters right here, and judge whether you'd like to help me continue down this path.
Alas, the life of a freelance writer is very demanding. I’m continually besieged by urgent projects from a variety of clients; and while that’s certainly not a complaint (hey, poppa’s got bills to pay), it does eat up the time I might otherwise devote to a labor of love.
That’s where you come in. If I can raise at least $5,000, I can set aside a good chunk of the next few months to make serious inroads to Edgar and Emma—by which point momentum should carry me through to completion, and publication.
To reward you for your support, I’ve put together what I think is a really top-notch selection of swag, including copies (both material and digital) of Bitch In a Bonnet and Edgar and Emma, plus other related trinkets and knickknacks, such as these three absurdly flattering T-shirt designs (coming soon to coffee cups, as well).
I’ve run successful Kickstarter campaigns before, so it's not my first time at the rodeo, and I’ve proven I can deliver; I’ve also demonstrated that I remain forever indebted to everyone who’s helped me to my goals.
Which is just a long way of saying that if you help me reach this goal, I will be, in good and earnest, and no mere figure of speech—
Your humble servant
Risks and challenges
As I mentioned above, I've run a few successful Kickstarter campaigns. In my last one I projected a delivery date of November and ended up delivering in January. Two months isn't so bad a delay; but writing Edgar and Emma seems likely to involve more extensive research and greater attention to tone than when I write in my own voice about my own world. For that reason, my estimated October delivery date might be optimistic. But I assure you that your confidence in, and support of, this project will result in the book arriving in your hands as soon as is humanly possible. I just want to take the time required to make it worthy of J.A. No skimping, no settling, no second-best...not in HER name. You get that, right? Of course you do. If not...write to me with your concerns, and we'll talk them through together. Thank you.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)