The Birth Pains of Publishing


Jane AustEn and her darling child

On Friday 29th January, 1813, Jane Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra:

I want to tell you that I have got my own darling Child from London;—on Wednesday I received one Copy, sent down by Falknor, with three lines from Henry to say that he had given another to Charles, & sent a 3d by the Coach to Godmersham; just the two Sets which I was least eager for the disposal of.

The ‘darling child’ in question was the first proof of ‘Pride and Prejudice.’ Two months earlier, Austen had written, to her friend Martha Lloyd:

P. & P. is sold.—Egerton gives £110 for it.—I would rather have had £150, but we could not both be pleased, & I am not at all surprised that he should not chuse to hazard, so much.

To date, over twenty million copies of the novel have been sold. Quite a profit!

 Last Thursday, I came home from work on a bitter January day to find a parcel propped up against my plant pot. I tore it open to find three ‘bound proofs’ of my first novel, The Oceans Between Us. I have to admit to crying!

Now I love my children and grandchildren to bits, but there’s a big paper cuckoo in the nest at the moment. It’s been nine years in gestation and has had at least eighty incarnations, but right at this moment I know what Jane Austen means:

My own darling child.

 There’s nothing quite like it.