Dedication from a Dutiful, Obedient, Humble Servant

 

dedicationblog

After a meeting at Carlton House, Jane Austen wrote to James Stanier Clarke, Librarian for the Prince Regent, in November of 1815. She opened up a dialogue on the proposed dedication, expressing her anxiety and uncertainty regarding the nature of the dedication. Austen`s tone is hesistant, bordering on unwilling, exemplified by her asking if it was incumbent on her to provide this dedication. The librarian`s response indicated that Austen was not incumbent to include the dedication, however he implied that it was expected.

Jane Austen`s tone in her letters to Clarke is contrasted in her letter to John Murray which immediately follows her receipt of Clarke’s imploring letter. While Austen had expressed self-deprecation and humility in her letters to Clarke, she is must more direct and strategic in her letter to Murray. Specifically, she hints at using the dedication to His Royal Highness as a means to put pressure on the printers to speed up the publication.

Austen is reputed to not have thought highly of the Prince Regent, the product of a silver spoon upbringing, and his treatment of women and his divorce scandal. We would suggest that Austen did not want to dedicate her work to HRH but likely felt pressured to. As such, one might read her dedication with an air of irony. In her letter to Murray, she notes that the dedication should read “dedicated by permission to HRH, The Prince Regent”, but the actual dedication is much longer, repeats “His Royal Highness” three times and puts heavy emphasis in describing herself as obedient and dutiful.

 

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