Copy of Elegant Extracts given by Jane Austen to her niece


Jane Austen gave this book to her niece Jane Anna Elizabeth in 1801, inscribing a dedication on the inside cover.

Elegant Extracts was an extremely popular anthology of prose writings by well-known authors, collected by Vicesimus Knox and first published in 1783. Knox followed this in 1789 with a companion anthology of poetry, which included verses by Austen’s favourite poet, William Cowper. Both the prose and poetry Elegant Extracts were abridged and reprinted many times; this one is an edition of the prose volume.

In Emma we hear that Harriet’s suitor, the farmer Robert Martin, reads from Elegant Extracts to his family. Emma is contemptuous of Robert Martin’s intellect, but the information Austen provides about his reading matter suggests that we should admire him for his commitment to self-improvement. Emma, by contrast, draws up a ‘great many lists’ of books she intends to read, but never gets round to doing so (ch. 5).

Full title:
Elegant Extracts: or useful and entertaining passages in prose
Vicesimus Knox, Jane Austen
© Jane Austen's House Museum
Usage terms

© Jane Austen's House Museum

Held by
Jane Austen's House Museum

Related articles

Jane Austen’s juvenilia

Article by:
Kathryn Sutherland
Childhood and children's literature, The novel 1780–1832

Professor Kathryn Sutherland explores how Jane Austen’s education and upbringing shaped her childhood writing, and considers the relationship between these early works and her adult novels.

Female education, reading and Jane Austen

Article by:
Kathryn Sutherland
The novel 1780–1832

The late 18th and early 19th centuries saw fierce debates about the nature and purpose of women’s education. Professor Kathryn Sutherland assesses these debates and describes the education and reading practices of Jane Austen and her female characters.

Related collection items

Related people

Related works


Created by: Jane Austen

Jane Austen began writing Emma in 1814 and the novel was published in 1816. The book can be classed as a ...