In early 1817 Jane Austen must have felt well enough to start a new novel and she began to write what is now known as Sanditon. She managed to write about 24,000 words (separated into 12 chapters) before illness again overcame her and she had to lay down her pen. The last page has ‘March 18’ written at the top of it.

The story is set in 1816 and is placed in Sussex, on the coast. Sanditon is a seaside town and also a business venture for some of its residents, who wish to attract the rich, the ill, and the social to the town. It is a wickedly funny satire on hypochondria and the fashion for seaside development. The heroine is a young woman named Charlotte Heywood and possibly the hero was to be a fashionable gentleman called Sidney Parker. They are accompanied by a large cast of characters.

There have been various completions of Sanditon, but all who enjoy Jane Austen’s novels must regret that she herself never lived to complete this book.

Jane Austen Society of Australia Inc