Later Days at Highbury
by Joan Austen-Leigh

Hardcover (November 1996)
St. Martin's Press; ISBN: 0312146426

& nbsp;      Posted by kathleen (elder) on May 15, 1997 at 18:24:03:
Have you read this author's own sequel to this book? It's called Later Days at Highbury and I didn't like it quite as well. It doesn't include many of the Emma characters, although it once again includes Mrs Goddard and her sister. 
     Posted by Tom on September 30, 1997 at 10:27:14:
I found it interesting and worth reading, although not as engaging as the original story. The format of exchanged letters does something to limit the dramatic intensity. 

        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 The form of the epistolary novel became popular in the 18th century.  Joan Austen-Leigh by returning to it gives herself a natural, unforced reason for 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 Tom, November 26, 1997
New Characters (i.e., besides those from the original story of Emma)

Mrs. Mary Goddard (the school mistress)
Mrs. Charlotte Pinkney (Mrs. Goddard’s sister)
Mr. Pinkney (Charlotte’s husband)
Sophy Adams (Mr. Pinkney’s niece, and by far the most adventuresome character of the lot)

Mr. William Pringle (tenant of Hartfield, now that the Knightley’s have moved to Donwell
Mrs. Pringle (William’s Mother)

Ms. Louisa Ludgrove (a boarder at Mrs. Goddard’s school)
Ms. Lavinia Ludgrove (Louisa’s twin sister, also at Mrs. Goddard’s)

Captain Gordon, RN (a beached captain in the Royal Navy)

Mr. Paddy Ryan (a clever and industrious Irishman who shares Sophy’s adventures)

And about 15 others ....

This is a delightful story about life in Highbury and London at a time about 2 years after Emma and George Knightley’s marriage. We catch a few glimpses of Emma, Harriet, and Jane together with their spouses and children. However, “Later Days” is mostly about new people and their separate concerns.

With the many diverse characters, I expected much mystery, adventure, and romance. However, this potential cannot be fully realized because the story is distilled into letters that are exchanged between the Mrs. Goddard, Mrs. Pinkney, and a few of the other ladies. Except for a few lines by Augusta Elton, that wonderfully outspoken wretch, most of these letters are properly conservative and unfortunately relatively lifeless. Also, unlike Jane Austen’s original stories, “Later Days” does not present the inner thoughts of the characters, and therefore does not show them developing as they live their experiences.

Having said that, I confess that I truly liked the book. By reading the it twice, I was able to take the general story written in the letters and imagine all sorts of details. This was fairly easy because several of the main plot elements are similar to what appears in other Jane Austen novels (i.e., P&P, S&S, Persuasion, and Mansfield Park).

Caution: This paragraph contains plot spoilers.

For example, after suffering an accident, one of the young ladies emulates Louisa Musgrove and becomes attached to the man who visits during her recovery. Another of the unattached ladies decides to run away from school because she misses her home. Her plan, similar to Lydia Bennet’s elopement, hinges upon enlisting the school's footman as her guardian and travel companion. And, like Fanny Price’s brother, a naval officer receives unexpected help in getting his case presented to the Admiralty.

End of plot spoilers.

Available at $18.00 (US), this is a book that I recommend to any fairly intense Jane Austen fan. Just the chance to see Augusta Elton in action again is worth the price. Also, even though I do not personally care for novels told in letter form, I think that the new characters and story lines in “Later Days” do make it better than most of the other published sequels. Enjoy!

        Review by Linda Waldemar, November 24, 1997
This book is a sequel to A Visit To Highbury, which is a parallel to Emma.  Again we have the exchange of gossipy letters between Mrs. Goddard, mistress of the school in Highbury, and her sister, Charlotte Pinkney, who lives in London.  But this time, she includes letters from other characters, as well.  Charlotte Marlowe (Mrs Pinkney's friend from A Visit To Highbury) who married the sailor,and her father, Captain Gordon; Mrs Elton and her sister, Mrs Suckling,of Maple Grove.

Mr Woodhouse has died and the George Knightleys, who now have a young son named Henry, remove to Donwell Abbey.  Isabella Knightly inherits Hartfield.  Soon afterward, Mrs Bates also dies.  Miss Bates, who no longer has any means of support, goes to live at Enscombe with the Frank Churchills. Since John Knightley needs to remain in London for the sake of this business, Hartfield is let to an eligible, rich young man and his mother.  The Eltons have received a "better" situation in town, so a new Vicar is named; another eligible young man.

There are other new characters; lively, pretty twins who are Mrs G's current parlour boarders and a niece of Mr Pinkney who is sent from the West Indies to school in London. Much of the book is about Capt Marlowe's attempts to get his pension from the Admiralty; worry about Miss Bates, she does not write to her oldfriends in Highbury; and the romantic adventures of the twins and Mr Pinkney's niece.

I found this book to be a very pleasant read.  The writing style is quite good and the characters are interesting.  Since there is so little written about the main characters of Emma, they do not have to suffer comparisons with Jane Austen's originals.

I recommend both A Visit To Highbury and Later Days At Highbury.

         Review by Lynn Lamy, 8 April 1998
If you enjoyed Austen-Leigh's A Visit to Highbury, you'll enjoy this sequel.  In it, the correspondence between Mrs. Goddard and her sister Mrs. Pinkney is continued.  It is very light reading, and the story, albeit a little far-fetched at times, is entertaining.

Mr. and Mrs. Pinkney now have a young son, their young friend Charlotte has married her sailor and lives in Portsmouth with her father and two young children.  Her father, you will recall, had been marooned on a desert island for several years.  He is now attempting to get his pension from the Admiralty, who seems to have forgotten he ever existed.  He travels to London to take care of this business, and stays with the Pinkneys.  Meanwhile, the Pinkney's have another regular visitor, a niece of Mr. Pinkney's, who attends the school Charlotte Gordon had attended, and this niece comes to spend her Sundays with her uncle and his wife.

Back in Highbury, Mrs. Goddard writes to Mrs. Pinkney about all the happenings in the village. Mr. Woodhouse and Mrs. Bates have both passed away, the Knightleys and their baby are removing to Donwell Abbey, the Churchills have taken Miss Bates back to Enscombe with them, and the Eltons have left Highbury altogether.  Mrs. Goddard tells Mrs. Pinkney all about the new vicar, her parlor boarders, and the new residents of Hartfield and the effect the young man has on the girls at her school.

Mrs. Goddard is most concerned, however, with the sudden departure of Miss Bates.  The Churchills whisked her away before she even had a chance to say good-bye to any of her dear friends, and since then, her friends have received only one letter from her.  They fear she is not happy at Enscombe.

This was an enjoyable little book, and a quick read.  Austen-Leigh gives us a little glimpse not only of what happens after the novel Emma ends, but also what happens to the characters she herself created in A Visit to Highbury.  I particularly liked how she handles what happens with Miss Bates, which you can find out if you're interested by trying this book.

         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 August 2000
If you enjoyed Austen-Leigh's A Visit to Highbury, you'll enjoy this sequel.  In it, the correspondence between Mrs. Goddard and her sister Mrs. Pinkney is continued.  It is very light reading, and the story, albeit a little far-fetched at times, is entertaining.

This is a sequel to A Visit To Highbury, and therefore has the continuing saga of the three different stories talked about (should I say written? It is also in the form of letters). There are letters between August Elton and Selina Suckling, that frankly, I could do without theirs. This book was far more confusing than A Visit to Highbury, which I never found confusing, because instead of having only two correspondents throughout, you have over six of them!  There were a few things concerning the "Emma  sequel" part of the book that I don't think Jane Austen would have had happen, had she written or thought about the continuing saga of Emma. And the Pinkney's niece story ended very poorly in my view. But in an overall way, I did enjoy it...although I certainly enjoyed A Visit To Highbury better!

       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.