Some authors refuse to read their reviews. And then there’s Jane Austen. Who not only, it turns out, listened to what her friends and acquaintances had to say about her books, both positive and negative, but also took notes on it.
Austen’s notes are part of a cache of 1,200 documents that the British Library have drawn out of their Victorian and Romantic collections and are now highlighting on their website with all kinds of supplementary bells and whistles—contextualizing essays, documentary films, and images of primary sources ranging from manuscripts to illustrations to advertisements, broadsides, and the occasional dancing manual.
Austen appears to have compiled the reactions of her readers from letters, hearsay, and direct conversations and recorded them on a set of closely written pages around 1815, before her death at the age of 41, two years later.