Thanks, Kathleen, for your link to the Chronicle of Higher Education article.
Dirac's comment -- "Less here than meets the eye" -- does seem a propos
. At least compared with the original headlines, which made me think of something on the order of the extensive redaction of Emily Dickenson by Mabel Todd Loomis. (I confess that the sensationalist part of me was hoping to see angry Janeites demonstrating in Trafalgar Square.
Doesn't Sutherland pretty much concede the limitations of her discovery?
"This is essentially a story about Jane Austen's punctuation," Ms. Sutherland half-jokingly told a reporter on Friday. "What I'm particularly interested in is that the manuscripts do not bear out that high degree of polished grammatical style for which Jane Austen is known"—what Ms. Sutherland calls "the exquisitely placed semicolon." The scholar thinks she detects the work of William Gifford, a "punctilious grammarian" who scouted literary properties and did some editing for John Murray, Austen's publisher for the last two years of a seven-year publishing career that ended with her death, in 1817. Ms. Sutherland says that in letters, now at the National Library of Scotland, Gifford told Murray that Austen had talent but that her prose needed some buffing. (He also repunctuated Byron.) Comparing the manuscripts to the editions Murray published, "one has to reach the conclusion that Gifford is doing what he says he'll do," Ms. Sutherland concluded.
Wasn't Loomis something of a "punctilious grammarian, too? Among other things.
Still more interesting to [Sutherland], however, is the authorial voice one hears in the manuscripts. She calls it "a more innovative, more experimental voice" than Austen gets credit for. "By not working with the grammatical form, she's actually coming much closer to writing real conversation" than in the printed versions where "she's pulled back into a more conventional form," the scholar said. "It's a voice you're perhaps not hearing again until the early 20th century."
A few examples of original mss
. passages, side by side with the same passages as published, might be helpful, even if these must be taken from second-tier work.