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Love and Freindship

I Love Jane Austen

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Aug 27, 2012, 5:32pm Top

I just finished this book of early works by Jane Austen, and got a kick out of it. Here's the LT review I gave it:

Love and Freindship by Jane Austen was written when she was 14 and 15 (mine has her History of England in it, too). Mainly in the form of letters, outrageous spoofs of the romance genre abound. There is some presaging of what is to come with this author, with discussions of the importance of marriage and wealth, obsessions with appearance, inflated pomposity, and more. The writing is impressive - she has a remarkable sense of flow and timing even at such a young age. The spelling disarmingly needs work, particularly on the "i before e" rule.

And large swatches are really funny. The young, love-obsessed duo of Laura and Sophia regularly faint at unexpected romantic developments:

"She (Sophia) was all Sensibility and Feeling. We flew into each other's arms and after having exchanged vows of mutual Freindship for the rest of our Lives, instantly unfolded to each other the most inward secrets of our Hearts. -- We were interrupted in the delightfull Employment by the entrance of Augustus (Edward's freind), who was just returned from a solitary ramble. Never did I see such an affecting Scene as was the meeting of Edward and Augustus.
"My Life! my Soul!" (exclaimed the former) "My Adorable Angel!" (replied the latter), as they flew into each other's arms. It was too pathetic for the feelings of Sophia and myself -- We fainted alternately on a sofa".

Perhaps as a sign of maturity, Laura begins instead to regularly "shriek and run mad" at dramatic moments in her life. Soon they are comparing the health benefits of the two, with frenzied fits having the benefit of warmth in the blood and exercise. During a quiet moment, an unplanned entry into a dark carriage one night turns out to be a coincidental reunion with most of Laura's relatives (the carriage somehow having tardis-like proportions), two of whom had stolen money from her during one of her fainting fits.

It's believed that Austen would read installments of Love and Freindship aloud at night to entertain her family. One can easily imagine the family's laughter at the wit of this young teen writer, and the exhilaration of her emerging talent.

This would not be the place to start reading Jane Austen (too juvenile in the end), and it's hard to imagine someone choosing to read it who is not already a fan of the author via her novels. But for those who are fans, it's a lucky chance to share in the humorous tales of a hugely talented young girl who became one of the world's most famous authors.

* * *

I suspect there are members of this group who know a heck of a lot more about Jane Austen and this collection than I do. Any comments would be welcome. It made me think of the humor of Northanger Abbey, although in NA the humor is more subtle by a long shot.

Aug 27, 2012, 6:55pm Top

Which edition did you manage to find? :)
I've read most (all?) of her adolescent prose in the Oxford's World Classics volume. Most of the stories are charming. :)

Aug 28, 2012, 10:39am Top

You know, Annie, I got it on Kindle for free. I'm checking right now. Ah, okay, it just says "A Public Domain Book". Maybe Project Gutenberg?

Besides three groups of letters, it has the History of England, the Female Philosopher, the First Act of a Comedy, and A Tale.

I found her adolescent writings charming, too, as you can tell. Is there an advantage to reading the Oxford Classics Volume, e.g. commentary?

Aug 28, 2012, 11:57am Top

No - not really - not much of a commentary in it. It's just the one I have. :)

Aug 28, 2012, 12:13pm Top

Ah,, okay. I couldn't resist the price (free). :-) That's been one of the major benefits of having the Kindle. (Another being convenience for travel - it made life a lot easier on a lengthy plane flight from the U.S. to Australia and back).

Aug 28, 2012, 12:24pm Top

:) Yeah, I know. Or to always have a book with you when you step out of the house for an hour and end up staying put for a few hours.

Aug 28, 2012, 12:35pm Top

Yes - my much better half got a bit annoyed this weekend when I brought my Kindle to breakfast at a restaurant with our daughter (in her 20s now), but I've been left alone at the table before and I'd like to have a book with me! My first instinct is to grab it these days if we're going somewhere.

Edited: Aug 29, 2012, 9:46pm Top

I also read and own Catharine and Other Stories which is a compilation of Austen's juvenile and other miscellaneous writings. "Love & Friendship" is included in this book. There's a lengthy section of textual and explanatory notes at the end.

Aug 31, 2012, 10:59am Top

Thanks, princessgarnet. I'll look for that - the textual and explanatory notes would be fun, as I'd like to know a little more about this part of her life, and the background to these stories.

Mar 16, 2016, 1:17am Top

I read the Everyman's Library edition, titled Sanditon and Other Stories. Here's my detailed comments:

I was enthused to read Lady Susan, but was afraid that the rest of it might be a chore. It seemed potentially worthwhile, however, to at least give the rest a try, and I’m very glad I did.

Part One includes Austen’s two unfinished novels and an unpublished novella. Note that other writers have published "finished" versions of the two novels.

Sanditon, 69 pages. Austen was working on this novel when she died in 1817. It was first published along with the biography written by her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh (1871). The manuscript is owned by King’s College, Cambridge. In the Introduction, Sanditon is described as “the real find in this collection.” On first reading, I don’t agree (although I am open to changing my mind on future rereading). That is not to say that it’s bad. It was actually more polished than I expected, although it still needed work. But it certainly didn’t read like a first draft. There were a lot of characters, some of them brilliantly Austenesque, but the heroine wasn’t introduced until page 11, so I didn’t get much of a feel for her.

The Watsons, 54 pages, written sometime between 1803 & 1808. Some scholars think that she stopped working on it after the death of her father. It was first published in the 1871 biography by James Edward Austen-Leigh. Part of the manuscript is at the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford and part of it owned by the Pierpont Morgan Library, in New York City.

This novel is darker than the later, better-known novels as it shows the grimmer side of life for unmarried women in the late 18th century. Some of the scenes reminded me of the Portsmouth section of Mansfield Park. Despite the more serious elements, I found this delightful and I was sad when it ended too soon. Luckily, Austen told her sister Cassandra the plan for the novel, and so we know generally how it wrapped up.

The story follows Emma Watson, who had been raised by rich aunt, after she returns home when the aunt’s new husband doesn’t want her. After a genteel and gracious life, she now lives with her impoverished widowed father and many sisters and several brothers who she has to get to know. She attracts the eye of the young, handsome, rich and socially awkward Lord Osborne, who appears to be a proto-type for Mr Darcy. The ball scene in The Watsons is reminiscent of ball scenes in Pride and Prejudice. Emma Watson had the potential to be a favourite Austen heroine had her story been written. This was one of my favourites in this book.

Lady Susan, 72 pages. Written in 1795 when Austen was just 19 yrs old. One wonders how this young, sheltered virgin knew so much about wickedness, but then perhaps Austen isn’t the demure lady that some of her fans think she was ( / smirk). This epistolary novella was first published in 1871 by James Edward Austen-Leigh, and then a revised version in 1926. The manuscript is owned by the Pierpont Morgan Library.

Lady Susan, Austen’s highest ranking heroine, is bit of a hussy. She’s in her mid-to-late 30s, and instigates dalliances with much younger men. And married men. Shocking, I know. This book has more in common with Les Liaisons Dangereuses than later Austen novels. Although the writing isn’t quite as accomplished as we expect from Austen, it didn’t disappoint, despite its rushed ending. I’m very excited that there is a movie coming out this May. It stars Kate Beckinsale and they renamed it “Love & Friendship” which is slightly confusing, as Austen has used that title elsewhere for a completely different story.

Part Two

The Juvenilia. Written 1787-1795 (age 12 – 20)

Austen wrote these bits and pieces to amuse her family. They are full of melodrama, understatement, and superficial characters. We are already starting to see her loaded sentences and wit. Some readers don’t know what to make of this, and dismiss it as silly, foolish, and overly-emotional. It’s evident by the reader reviews at GoodReads that many who call themselves Austen fans don’t get parody or that she “dearly loves to laugh.”

VOLUME THE FIRST (First published 1933, now at the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford)

“Jack & Alice” is my favourite in this section. Austen was about 15 when she wrote this zany tale of adultery and drunkenness (lots of drunkenness). I read somewhere that her heirs suppressed it as these were unsuitable topics for a girl her age to know about. At least they didn’t destroy it. Take note that there is no one in this story named Jack.

“Jack & Alice” has one of my favourite Austen quotes: “Charles Adams was an amiable, accomplished & bewitching young Man, of so dazzling a Beauty that none but Eagles could look him in the Face. “

Other stories (and short plays) in this volume are: “Frederic & Elfrida,” “Edgar & Emma” (a very short story featuring a family with more than 20 children), “Henry & Eliza,” “Mr Harley,” “Sir William Montague,” “Mr Clifford,” “The Beautifull Cassandra” (sic), “Amelia Webster,” “The visit,” “The Mystery,” “The Three Sisters” (another highly amusing one), “Detached Pieces,” & “Ode to Pity.”

VOLUME THE SECOND (First published 1922, now at the British Library)

Love and Freindship (sic) is an epistolary novella written about a 55 year old woman that Austen wrote when she was 15. There is lots of “running mad” and fainting. Also illegitimacy and theft. Very unAusten-like.

Another favourite of mine is The History of England, which she wrote at age 16. It covers Henry IV (1399) through Charles I (1649) and is a poorly-veiled propaganda piece for Mary, Queen of Scots (and thus, also very anti-Elizabeth I). Rather silly, indeed.

Also included: Lesley Castle (another epistolary piece), a “Collection of Letters” (made up fictions, not actual letters) & “Scraps.”

VOLUME THE THIRD (First published 1951. I have conflicting information on ownership. It’s either the British Library or the British Museum)

"Evelyn" has a dreamlike, almost gothic, feel. It’s the closest you’re going to get to SciFi in Austen.

"Kitty, or the Bower" is 51 pages long, and shows an increasing sophistication of thought.
Also included, under Miscellanea are “A Plan of a Novel,” published opinions on Mansfield Park and Emma from the 19th century, some “Verses” (unremarkable, although surprising to see Austen mention Lake Ontario and Niagara Falls, considering she rarely mentions anything outside of England, particularly North America), and some “Prayers.”

Also interesting throughout all these bits and fragments is the development of Austen characters. We meet some new ones, and also some who reminded me a lot of Caroline Bingley, Fitzwilliam Darcy, Lady Catherine DeBourgh, Emma Woodhouse, and Catherine from Northanger Abbey, among others.

Even at a young age, it is evident that Austen never wrote for “such dull elves as have not a great deal of ingenuity themselves.”

Mar 26, 2016, 7:57am Top

Here are some reflections on Jane's juvenile writings:

(i) She showed from a very early age her literary genius and George Austen being in the education person, a great prose writer and a loving father recognised this extraordinary ability and encouraged and promoted it.

(ii) The Austen household at Steventon with clever parents, their talented children and the five or so boarders being prepared for Oxford and Cambridge was a literary and acting hothouse. But Jane's sister Cassandra had exactly the same opportunities and yet what did she make of her literary abilities? Perhaps in the shadow of Jane's genius, lesser talents were over-shadowed.

(iii) Jane's juvenile writings show some very marked examples of black humour and references to some surprising topics, considering the strongly held conventional Anglican faith of the parents and their household. Consider Jane's references in her early skits to the Reformation, Elizabeth I versus Mary Queen of Scots and James VI and I's homosexuality.

(iv) In such a large household of clever and ambitious children, Jane seems to have realised that her literary talent and sharp wit would be useful in getting her share of her father's attention.

It is truism to state that family background is central to most of us whether in good or bad ways. Jane's family background seems to have been of central importance to the development of her literary genius.

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