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'Jane Austen had helping hand from editor'

books Updated: Oct 23, 2010 17:04 IST

AP
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She's renowned for her precise, exquisite prose, but a new study says Jane Austen was a poor speller who got a big helping hand from her editor.

Oxford University English professor Kathryn Sutherland studied 1,100 handwritten unpublished pages and found they contradicted the claim by Austen's brother that "everything came finished from her pen."

Sutherland says they show "blots, crossings out, messiness," and a writer who often the broke rules of grammar.

She says letters reveal that editor William Gifford was heavily involved in cleaning up Austen's style.

Sutherland said on Saturday that the documents show Austen was an experimental writer who constantly tried new things.

Austen's handwritten manuscripts will go online on Monday at www.janeausten.ac.uk .