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The Watsons is an unfinished novel by Jane Austen. She began writing it c. 1803 and probably abandoned it after her father's death in January 1805. It has five chapters, and is less than 18,000 words long.
Mr. Watson is a widowed clergyman with two sons and four daughters. The youngest daughter, Emma, has been brought up by a wealthy aunt and is consequently better educated and more refined than her sisters. But when her aunt contracts a foolish second marriage, Emma is obliged to return to her father's house. There she is chagrined by the crude and reckless husband-hunting of two of her sisters. She finds the kindness of her eldest and most responsible sister, Elizabeth, more attractive.
Living near the Watsons are the Osbornes, a great titled family. Emma attracts some notice from the boorish and awkward young Lord Osborne, while one of her sisters pursues Lord Osborne's arrogant, social-climbing friend, Tom Musgrave. Various minor characters provide potential matches for Emma's brothers and sisters.
Mr. Watson is seriously ill in the opening chapters, and Austen confided in her sister Cassandra that he was to die in the course of the work. Emma was to decline a marriage proposal from Lord Osborne, and was eventually to marry Osborne's virtuous former tutor, Mr. Howard.
Several attempts have been made to finish the novel.
Austen's niece, Catherine Hubback, completed The Watsons and published it under the title The Younger Sister in the mid-19th century.
The Watsons is a completion by L. Oulton published in 1923 by D. Appleton and Company.
The Watsons, by Jane Austen. Completed in accordance with her intentions by Edith and Francis Brown. was published by E. Matthews & Marrot in 1928. Edith Brown was the granddaughter of Catherine Hubback (see above) and the great-great-niece of Jane Austen.
John Coates also published a completion in 1957.
Joan Aiken adapted and completed the novel as Emma Watson: The Watsons Completed, in 1996.
The Watsons (ISBN 1-904754-93-7) is a completion by Merryn Williams published in 2005.
The Watsons, by Jane Austen and Another Lady (ASIN B002ACZTWA) by Helen Baker is a completion published in 2008.
The Watsons Revisited (ISBN 978-1-4327-8563-5) is a completion by Eucharista Ward published in 2012 by Outskirts Press.
THE WATSONS by Jane Austen Completed by Jennifer Ready Bettiol (ASIN B009O5IYP0) was published in 2012 by Kindle Direct Publishing.
In The Jane Austen Project, published in 2017 (ISBN 978-0-06-265125-9), author Kathleen A. Flynn writes about an alternate fate for The Watsons. In this narrative, Austen had finished the novel but then destroyed it, and two futuristic researchers travel back in time in an attempt to retrieve it.
According to the BBC World News, on July 14, 2011, Sotheby's sold Austen's original manuscript to the Bodleian Library for £850,000. A Bodleian Library source said that this was the last Jane Austen MS still in private hands. Before the actual auction, Sotheby's had estimated the MS's value at £200,000-£300,000.
- Tomalin, Claire (1997). Jane Austen: A Life. New York: Vintage.
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