Adventures in Reading

Jane Austen in the News: Rejected!
September 1, 2007, 11:43 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Publishers reject classic titles

Only one out of 18 publishers managed to spot plagiarised versions of Jane Austen novels, a writer says. David Lassman, 43, from Bath, had his own attempt at a novel rejected by a string of publishers.

So he retyped parts of Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, before sending them to publishers and agents.

Not only did most of the literary experts fail to spot the trick – none offered him a book contract.


Mr Lassman submitted the works under the name Alison Laydee – Austen’s early pseudonym was “A Lady”. To offer further hints to the con, he even re-named Pride and Prejudice “First Impressions” – the original title for the story.

Penguin, which republished Pride and Prejudice last year, described the work as a “really original and interesting read” but not right for them.

The literary agent Christopher Little, who represents JK Rowling, said it was “not confident placing this material with a publisher”.

Bloomsbury also did not rate Austen’s Northanger Abbey, which had been renamed Susan, saying: “I didn’t feel the book was suited to our list.”

Mr Lassman, who also runs Bath’s Jane Austen Festival, said: “I wanted to see how well Jane would’ve got on in today’s publishing world, and it seems poor old Jane wasn’t too popular.

‘Slightly worrying’

“Only one person actually recognised her work, Pride and Prejudice, which really was very surprising.

“It’s slightly worrying. You wonder how many future classics are being missed.”

The only publisher to make the connection was Alex Bowler, assistant editor at Jonathan Cape.

His reply said: “Thank you for sending us the first two chapters of First Impressions. I suggest you reach for your copy of Pride and Prejudice, which I’d guess lives in close proximity to your typewriter, and make sure your opening pages don’t too closely mimic the book’s opening.”

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