A Visit to Highbury
Mrs. Goddard, mistress of a school
by Joan Austen-Leigh
(out of print)

        Posted by Lesley on June 04, 1997 at 23:17:49:
I have only read one "sequel" called "A Visit to Highbury" by Joan Austen-Leigh, Jane's great-great, etc. neice.  It is not really a sequel because it is a series of letters exchanged between Mrs. Goddard and her sister in London while the action in Emma is taking place. Although most sequels receive pretty short shrift around here, I found the book to be very good.

        Posted by Lesley on September 30, 1997 at 01:35:11

I can highly recommend "A Visit to Highbury". I thought it was delightful and charming. It isn't really a sequel bc the action of the book takes place at the same time as the activities in "Emma". It iswritten by Joan Austen-Leigh.   It is a series of letters between Mrs. Goddard and her sister wholives in London.  It is one of the few epistolary novels that I can tolerate and actively like.Anyway, it is not as as terrible as the others seem to be and it is obvious that Austen-Leigh inherited her writing talent from the Austen side of the family! 

        Review by Linda Waldemar,  1997
As described by the subtitle, this is not a sequel. It tells the story of Emma through the eyes of Mrs. Goddard who runs the school where Harriet Smith is a parlor boarder. The author is Jane Austen's great-great-grandniece, the great-granddaughter of her nephew, James Edward Austen-Leigh, who wrote the celebrated Memoir of his aunt.

This is a book is a pleasant read. Joan Austen-Leigh does a pretty good job of writing in the style of her famous ancestor. The story is told through a series of letters from Mrs. Goddard to her sister, Charlotte Pinkney, who lives in London.

This book is a retelling of the story of Emma. She is very faithful to the book and adds little additional perspective on the characters as Jane Austen wrote them.

Mrs. Goddard's sister lives in London and is bored with her new husband therefore begs for news and gossip. Mrs. G obliges by writing to her of all the happenings in Highbury. Most of the time, this is believable, but there are a few places that one must stretch the imagination to believe that Mrs. Goddard is privy to some incident, e.g. that Mr. Elton made an offer to Emma. Mrs. Pinkney uses the same apothecary as Mrs. John Knightly, so she gets gossip from him as well. Mr. Pinkney goes to Bath to improve his gout. While there, the Pinkneys become acquainted with Augusta Hawkins and Mr. Elton.

The author does add a couple of more characters and another love story. Charlotte Pinkney befriends a young lady from the school next door to her dwelling, who falls in love with a sailor. While in Bath, the Admiral, an old acquaintance of Mr. Pinkney's, talks about a novel that he has read and enjoyed. When asked the name of the author, he says that it is signed, "By A Lady". Mr. P finally tells his new wife that he is not very sociable because his fiancee, Fanny, died one week before their planned wedding (similar to Captain Benwick's experience in Persuasion). Another line she borrows from JA is when she repeats to her young friend, Charlotte Lucas' opinion. The girl wants to know if she should write to the sailor, although they are not engaged. Mrs. Pinkney says yes, so that they can get to know one another better. "Of course," I said smiling, "you might argue that it is better not to know too much about the person with whom you are to spend your life." After Mr. and Mrs. Pinkney get over their misunderstanding and become companions, Mrs. lets Mr. read all her letters from her sister. Mr. P then figures out that Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill are engaged; before it is revealed to the inhabitants of Highbury.

The story ends with the Pinkneys and their young friend finally travelling to Highbury to meet all subjects that have been discussed in the letters.

        Review by Mary M. Stolzenbach, November 10, 1997
Joan Austen-Leigh, great-great-grandniece of the novelist, is clever enough to stay out of the private moments of the happily married George and Emma Knightley, while giving us most pleasant glimpses into the life of Highbury, in her  VISIT TO HIGHBURY and LATER DAYS AT HIGHBURY  (at amazon.com.uk).  The form of the epistolary novel became popular in the 18th century.  Joan Austen-Leigh by returning to it gives herself speaking in the tones of an earlier era, and her ear for the style is quite good.  The majority of the correspondence is between Mrs. Goddard, at whose establishment Harriet Smith was a parlour boarder, and the schoolmistress’ sister in London, Mrs. Pinkney.  The life of the village is brought before us, some new young people are introduced and happily married off, dear Miss Bates’ welfare is solicitously considered, and we are even treated to some most characteristic and entertaining correspondence between Mrs Augusta Elton and her beloved sister Selina.  It has been wisely said, “No one writes Jane Austen as well as Jane Austen.”  But these two volumes can serve as pleasant interludes before turning -- once more with feeling! -- to reading Austen again.

        Review by Lynn Lamy, 24 February 1998
In reading about A Visit to Highbury, I wondered how Mrs. Goddard could possibly describe the events of Jane Austen's novel Emma for her point of view.  As soon as I started reading this epistolary novel, though, I understood.  She was a woman with no family of her own nearby, so she wrote of all her nearest concerns to her sister in London, describing all the events in the small village of Highbury, for her sister's interest.  Her sister, in turn, a Mrs. Pinkney, wrote back, describing her recently accomplished second marriage, and all its perplexities.  She also describes the goings-on at the girls¹ school next door to her new home, aghast when one of it's inmates collapses in a faint on her doorstop.

This small event puts into motion all kinds of other events, which we learn in reading Mrs. Pinkney's letters to Mrs. Goddard.  We also learn a great deal of the inhabitants of Highbury, which Mrs. Goddard hears from all kinds of sources (and with great respect we hear of her evenings with Mr. Woodhouse and Mrs. Bates when Miss Woodhouse goes out of an evening). We see her motherly concern for Harriet Smith, how glad she is when Miss Woodhouse takes a liking to her, how distraught she is when she realizes Harriet has refused Mr. Martin.  We see her gradually come to realize with Mrs. Goddard that perhaps Miss Woodhouse is not such a good influence on innocent Harriet Smith after all.  Mrs. Pinkney originally drinks in all these details of a village she's never been to because of dissatisfaction in her own life, but as she comes to know the people through Mrs. Goddard's descriptions, she begins to relish every mention of them and their affairs.  While all this is happening in Highbury, things are happening in Mrs. Pinkney's own life, including the growing friendship with Miss Gordon, the girl who fainted on her doorstep.

The characters Austen-Leigh creates in Mr. and Mrs. Pinkney and Miss Gordon are very good, and I liked the representation of Mrs. Goddard.  It was a fun read, and the interest of Austen-Leigh's characters' lives keep you interested through the whole retelling of Austen's original story.  I am looking forward to the "sequel" to this, Later Days at Highbury!

        Comment by Yvette on Wed, 20 May 1998 22:40:43

A Visit to Highbury and Later Days at Highbury -Joan Austen-Leigh. Written by a relative of Austen. This set of epistolary (letter-based) novels is centered around the adventures of Mrs. Goddard (the mistress of the school in Highbury) and her sister. I found them quite entertaining.

        Review by Robyn Wensley, 27 July 2000
This was a wonderful read! Not only were you getting the story of Jane Austen's beloved story Emma through the eyes of a wise and observant matron/school-mistress, but you also had the delightful blossoming of true love between her disconsolate younger sister and her new husband, Mr. Pinkney. I was always eagerly reading as fast I could to get in on what would happen between them, besides Mr. Pinkney's always guessing what was really happening in Highbury....(he guesses that Frank and Jane Fairfax are secretly engaged and nobody believes him!). J A Leigh is able to intermingle three stories into one, without taking away from her aunt Jane Austen's original at all. I was pleasantly surprised with a VERY absorbing and pleasing little book!

        Written by Tori Marie (3/16/2001 2:40 a.m.)
 I finished it yesterday and thought it was delightful. It had a totally unique perspectiveon the story but stayed true to the original. I liked that no speaking characters in Emma speak in this book and we get a closer look at some of the events and  opinions beyond Hartfield.

I also thought it was funny that so many opinions expressed by these moreremoved characters mirror so closely those found on the Emma board at RoP! 

        Written by Tori Marie (1/30/2002 11:34 p.m.)
Joan Austen-Leigh, who was descended from one of JA's  brothers and founded JASNA, wrote two novels set in Highbury in which we hear Emma's story from these minor characters' points of view. In fact, she makes a point of not having any character speak in her work who alsospoke in her great-aunt's original work.

The first is a parallel to Emma. It is called Letters From Highbury, IIRC, and tells the story from Mrs. Goddard's POV, along with another story relating to Mrs. Goddard's sister. I'm less sure of the title of the sequel, but I think it is Return to Highbury and it follows the story of the Emma characters as well as those created by Austen-Leigh.

They're, IMO, a couple of the best sequels out there and I'd strongly recommend them to anyone interested in the minor characters.

       Written by Lucia Rosa (November 28, 2004 ) 
She is the great-great niece (I'm not sure the # of "greats") of Jane Austen and her book reads like an epistolary novel. It was short and enjoyable and the author did not go overboard with the language (like many modern authors do when they try to write like they are in the Regency period).