After finishing the post, please read the important postscript because it is, well, important.
One of Jane Austen’s most ardent supporters of her writing efforts was her brother Henry. Despite being cautioned by his sister that she did not want her identity known, Henry could not help but brag about his younger sister’s success, especially when the very popular Pride and Prejudice went into its third printing. It was Henry, from his sickbed, who successfully negotiated her agreement with John Murray, Lord Byron’s publisher, for her fourth novel, Emma. After an agreement had been secured with Murray, Jane went up to London to see if she could expedite the printing of her book. During her stay, she was contacted by Rev. James Stanier Clarke, the Regent’s librarian. His Royal Highness had learned that Jane was in town from his physician who also happened to be her brother Henry’s doctor.
Putting aside her “hatred” for the Prince because of his debauchery and ill treatment of his wife, Princess Caroline, Jane accepted Stanier's invitation to tour Carlton House, the Regent’s opulent London residence. During her tour, Stanier told Miss Austen that the Prince had a set of her novels in each of his many residences and that, “by permission of His Royal Highness,” she was “at liberty to dedicate any future novel to him.” Jane immediately recognized the commercial value of such a dedication, but she also used this information to get her printer to expedite the printing of her novel. Once acquainted with the Prince Regent’s interest, Jane had her proofsheets.
On December 23, 1815, the Morning Chronicle announced that “Emma: A Novel in Three Volumes by the Author of ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ Etc., Etc.” was now available. The dedication as written by Jane, “Dedicated by permission to HRH The Prince Regent,” was embellished by the publisher, and in unctuous prose worthy of Mr. Collins, the wording as it appeared that December morning read: “To His Royal Highness, The Prince Regent. This work is, by his Royal Highness’s permission, most respectfully dedicated by His Royal Highness’s dutiful and obedient humble servant, The Author.”
Did the Prince Regent’s notice of Jane Austen’s writings have any effect on the success of Emma? It is impossible to know. What we do know is that Emma sold more copies in its first run than any of her three previous novels.
Emma was the last novel to be published in Jane’s lifetime. The woman who had given the world Pride and Prejudice remained unknown to the general public until a year after her death in 1817 when her brother Henry wrote a biographical preface to Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. Known or unknown, Jane Austen’s legacy is a body of work that has delighted hundreds of thousands of readers from all walks of life and at least one prince.
Important Postscript: The new blog, Austen Authors, will be hosting a scavenger hunt sometime during their launch month (i.e., September). It is my understanding that readers will need to visit the blogs of the different authors looking for a specific post or FAQ. This is mine. I repeat, the Prince and the Author is my contribution to the scavenger hunt. This is not cheating; this is favoritism.