How Emma Travels: By Letters, Hands and Libraries

By Hayes Smith
February 2012

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How Emma Travels: By Letters, Hands and Libraries

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Letters leading to other letters seems to be a theme when following this first American edition of Emma. In the letter to Mr. Hogan from Mr. Muir, Muir writes how he feels it is important that Mr. Hogan also get, along with the copy of Emma, the letter from Mr. Sassoon (the lavender letter found in the first volume.) “I think it is only right and proper that you should have with the book the letter that Sassoon sent me when sending the book to me. My own feeling is that one cannot have too much of this kind of thing in association with books.” The truth in Muir’s statement could not be more paramount as it relates to this particular edition of Emma. Burke and Gilson’s letter lead to examining the 1816 Philadelphia edition, which hold the additional correspondences from Sassoon and Muir. Being able to handle and analyze one of the three first American editions is a privilege in itself (Gilson, 100). Yet more than just handling the two volumes, I found the circuit of corresponding materials equally intriguing and helpful to track how the book came from Philadelphia, to the Countess Dalhousie, to Siegfried Sassoon to Frank J. Hogan and finally to Alberta Burke.

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 The last letter found inside the first volume relating to Emma’s provenance is from Mr. Muir to Alberta Burke. Muir writes to Alberta on different stationary then when writing to Mr. Hogan, perhaps to add a more personal touch. Typed on yellow paper with the green “Elkin Mathews Ltd” insignia printed at the top, the letter is typed and dated May 22nd, 1945. Mr. Muir writes that Mr. Hogan purchased the first American 1816 Philadelphia edition for Alberta for only 300 dollars. “I congratulate you,” he writes, “on getting it so cheaply. It is exceedingly rare.”

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 The last letter from Alberta Burke to David Gilson is dated February 4th, 1975. After this date the Austen letters continue between Alberta’s husband Henry Burke and David Gilson. After Alberta’s death on May 22nd, 1975 Goucher’s library received her Jane Austen collection. According to Goucher’s pamphlet “Twenty-Five Years of Jane Austen,” Alberta had always intended to donate the collection to Goucher. “From the time when my Jane Austen material first began to overflow the one-shelf bounds assigned to it, I have always intended that Goucher should be the ultimate recipient, and I have hoped that, sometime in the future, others would partake of the very great pleasure which they have given me for many years.”

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 When David Gilson in 1982 published A Bibliography of Jane Austen he acknowledged his gratitude to Alberta and Henry Burke. Both Alberta Burke and David Gilson benefited from their letters to one another. Alberta Burke, with her deep seeded love and interest in all things Austen, was able to help David Gilson with his mission to track down Austen texts, study and describe them.

Works Cited
Gilson, David. A Bibliography of Jane Austen. first. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982.
Austen, Jane. Emma. First. Philadelphia: M.Carey, 1816.

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