That feeling you got when the boy who left flowers at your locker was the creepiest guy in high school? Yeah, that.


Not everyone’s cup of tea: the Prince Regent was widely reviled.

It was a love-hate relationship. He loved her; she hated him. But the man who was one of the more disgusting prince regents, the future George IV, was the first buyer of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility

The story is told in The New York Times and The Guardian.

Austen sided with Princess Charlotte, the much betrayed wife of the prince. “Poor woman, I shall support her as long as I can, because she is a Woman, & because I hate her Husband.”

She wasn’t alone in her distaste. According to The New York Times: “The man’s reputational troubles began at birth, when a courtier in attendance announced that he was a girl. By the time of his death in 1830, he had spent so extravagantly, and entertained such a long string of mistresses, that an early biographer accused him of contributing more ‘to the demoralization of society than any prince recorded in the pages of history.’”

Yet she owed the man a debt: he was the first one to purchase a book of hers ever. According to The Guardian:

Nicholas Foretek, a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania, was delving through Windsor Castle’s Royal Archives as part of his research into 18th-century printing and publications when he came across a bill of sale revealing that the future King George IV bought a copy of Sense and Sensibility for 15 shillings from his booksellers, Becket & Porter. The purchase was made on 28 October 1811 – two days before the first public advertisement for the novel appeared. Published anonymously, Sense and Sensibility was not an immediate hit, only selling through its first print run by summer 1813 after positive reviews.

“[This] is perhaps the earliest known transaction of any Austen novel,” said Foretek, announcing his discovery.

Austen was also informed that if she “had any other novel forthcoming she was at liberty to dedicate it to the prince.” And so she did. She held her nose and did what had to be done. She wrote her dedication to the prince in her 1815 novel Emma: “To his Royal Highness, the Prince Regent, this work is, by His Royal Highness’s Permission, most Respectfully Dedicated by his Royal Highness’s Dutiful and Obedient Humble Servant.” One scholar called it “one of the worst sentences she ever committed to print.”

His passion never waned; hers never waxed. After he became king in 1820, he bought two copies of Pride and Prejudice in 1813, alongside a second copy of Sense and Sensibility, as well as Mansfield Park in 1814. He also owned a gift copy of Northanger Abbey – and a gift copy of Emma, with one of the most reluctant dedications ever written.

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