by Jane Austen, edited by John Wiltshire
Why do we need another edition of Mansfield Park? Particularly, what is the justification for an expensive one, when we can get a plain reprint for $5, or a well-annotated paperback for $10? The answer is the one that all scholarly editors are driven by: editorial principles have changed. What was considered acceptable textual practice even twenty years ago no longer fulfils readers’ desires to get close to origins, to understand contexts.
In the case of the six completed novels of Jane Austen’s maturity, almost any paperback we pick up is a largely unrevised version of an edition that is over eighty years old: R.W. Chapman’s magisterial Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen. Chapman, like most editors of that period (and well into the twentieth century) corrected the text published in Jane Austen’s lifetime with a sure conviction that he could recognise an error of typesetting (or even an authorial grammatical or narrative solecism) and substitute what Austen must have intended. Modern editorial practice, followed scrupulously by La Trobe University’s John Wiltshire in this splendid edition, offers a text as close as possible to what was published within the author’s lifetime.