Catherine-Anne Hubback, one of Jane Austen's nieces, started writing fiction to support herself and her three sons after her husband, the barrister John Hubback, had been committed to an asylum as the result of a breakdown. Turning to her copy of one of Jane Austen's unfinished fragments, entitled The Watsons by her sister Cassandra, and remembering the latter's outline of the plot as allegedly projected by Jane before she abandoned the project, Catherine wrote a completion, published in 1850 under the title of The Younger Sister. Very much a Victorian work of fiction that engages with current issues, it is also a self-consciously historical novel. The first of a plethora of sequels to and completions of Austen’s novels, it is at once more faithful and more ambitious than later efforts. Between 1850 and 1863 Catherine Hubback published nine more novels, among them The Wife’s Sister, The Rival Suitors, and Agnes Milbourne, a story dealing with a young girl’s dilemma over the conflicting claims of the Episcopalian and the Presbyterian church and at the time her most popular work of fiction. Her novels are now very little read and hard to obtain.

Although born after Jane Austen’s death, Catherine contributed much to the perpetuation of family history. While The Younger Sister as an interpretative continuation of her aunt’s work has been unduly neglected, she has been called “one of the channels along which biographical information [about Jane Austen] was transmitted” (Austen-Leigh, 235). One of her sons, John Henry Hubback (1844-1939), moreover wrote together with his daughter Edith Charlotte (later Mrs Francis Brown) a biography of Austen’s “sailor brothers”, i.e. of his own grandfather, Sir Francis Austen, and his youngest brother, Charles. Edith (Hubback) Brown went on to write another continuation of The Watsons — curiously without being aware of the publication of her grandmother’s version. In the Preface of her 1928 completion, she only mentions having discovered a manuscript of Catherine Hubback’s novel. Edith Brown’s further continuations of Jane Austen’s novels, Margaret Dashwood; or Interference, published in 1929, and Susan Price; or Resolution, published in 1930, can be said to have set off the phenomenon of the Austen-sequel for good. Thus relegated to a brief prefatory note, Catherine Hubback’s fiction has subsequently been nearly forgotten.

Related Materials:

References

Austen-Leigh, William and Richard Arthur, Jane Austen; her Life and Letters, a Family Record [1913], revised and enlarged by Deirdre Le Faye. London: The British Library, 1989.

Hopkinson, David. "A Niece of Jane Austen's," N&Q (1984) 31.4: 470-471.


Victorian Web Overview Catherine Hubback

Last modified: 3 December 2002