Special Features and Deleted Scenes

It’s very well worth getting the 2-disc Special Edition of Austen books – you know, the one with the Special Features, including Deleted Scenes. Oh, okay, the official terminology is “scholarly edition”, and it’s not called Special Features, but “introduction” and “notes on the text” and “appendices”.

But, yes, my Broadview edition of Persuasion has a deleted scene in the end. Well, a deleted chapter. It’s chapter 10 of book 2, which in the final version was replaced with chapters 10 and 11, where the Musgroves come to Bath. The old chapter 11 became chapter 12 in the current version; it’s pretty much the same as it stands. And I know: now you’re dying to know what’s in it, right? It’s, of course, the scene where Anne and Captain Wentworth finally get together, get their misunderstandings straightened out once and for all. If you want to read it, you can find the whole thing here (thank you, Republic of Pemberley).

But here’s a quick synopsis. The chapter picks up right after Anne has found out from Mrs Smith what Mr Elliot really is like. She is on her way home, walking past the Croft’s lodgings, when she gets waylaid by the Admiral who insists she come in for a visit with his wife. Of course, Captain Wentworth is there, too, and the Admiral takes him aside and tells him to ask Anne whether she would want the Crofts to vacate Kellynch Hall when she marries Mr Elliot. Anne then tells Captain Wentworth that none of it’s true, that no, she’s not marrying Mr Elliot, in spite of what everyone thinks. Needless to say, upon hearing this, Captain Wentworth doesn’t let the grass (or drawing room carpet, as it were) grow under his feet, and by the time Anne goes home that night, “It [is] necessary to sit up half the Night & lie awake the remainder to comprehend with composure her present state [of happiness], & pay for the overplus of Bliss, by Headake & Fatigue” [sic] (Persuasion. Peterborough: Broadview 2004. 266.).

It’s a lovely scene, but I’m glad that Austen swapped it out for the existing version. The Musgroves’ visit to Bath, and Anne’s decisive conversation with Captain Harville which brings everything to its happy conclusion, are too good to be missed. But I’m also glad to have read this part. And then, if you’ve watched the 1995 movie with Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Roots, you’ll recognise part of this chapter: they incorporated the scene of Captain Wentworth being the unwilling messenger for his brother-in-law into the movie at the point just before Anne talks to Mrs Smith about Mr Elliot. Nice touch, that. We may have lost the scene from the book, but they went and added it back in for the movie. I had no idea that was original Austen.

Incidentally, unfortunately this is the only deleted scene we have, because Persuasion is the only Austen book that still exists in manuscript. She was already sick when she finished it, and the book wasn’t published until after her death in 1817; all she left was the manuscript (unlike the other books, which she proofed herself, and presumably destroyed the early versions of). It’s fascinating to see how similar the Great Austen’s writing processes were to what writers do today. Taking a whole chapter, deleting it, and writing two new ones instead – getting her friends and family to beta-read for her, and keeping notes of what everyone said and thought about it – all sounds very familiar to today’s wordsmith. With the lack of manuscripts or early drafts for the other novels, it’s easy to assume that all of Austen’s works sprang, Athena-like, fully formed from her head – once she got done with the early apprenticeship of writing her Juvenilia, one day she sat down, and Northanger Abbey flowed from her pen… But not so; we have the deleted chapter of Persuasion to prove otherwise.

By the by, on the topic of scholarly editions, I very much enjoy the Broadview Press editions of Austen. The extra information in the appendices is invaluable, and the introductions by literary scholars give much food for thought. The anachronistic cover pictures (mid-Victorian photographs, I think mostly from Archives Canada) turned me off at first, but they kind of grow on you – there’s the right kind of feel about some of them, even if the clothing and hairstyles are seventy years out of date. And there’ve been enough Austen editions with Lawrence paintings of elegant Regency damsels on the cover; if nothing else, these photos of simple Canadian girls are unique. But after all, it’s the content that matters, and the Broadview editions really deliver on that.

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