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The Juvenilia is a collection of Jane Austen's early writing. She compiled the works in three bound notebooks entitled Volume the First, Volume the Second, and Volume the Third. Austen wrote the stories and plays in the collection between 1787 and 1793, when she was a teenager. The existing notebooks are not the original manuscripts but represent fair copies made later. There is evidence in the manuscript that Austen continued to work on these pieces as late as the period 1809-1811, and that her niece and nephew, Anna and James Edward Austen, made further additions as late as 1814.[1]

The Juvenilia[edit]

At some (now unknown) point, perhaps as early as 1787 when she was 11, Jane Austen began to write stories and plays for her own amusement and that of her family. Austen shared her early writings with her sister Cassandra and sometimes with the rest of her family and close friends either through family reading or performance.[2] Austen later compiled "fair copies" of various early works into three bound notebooks, now referred to as the Juvenilia, containing pieces originally written between 1787 and 1793. The various works in the collection are dedicated to members of her family and close friends like Austen's cousin Eliza de Feuillide.[3] There is evidence in the manuscript that Austen continued to work on these pieces as late as the period 1809-1811, and that her niece and nephew, Anna and James Edward Austen, made further additions as late as 1814.[4] Lascelles comments that the Juvenilia "carry throughout the stamp of a family joke—probably as spontaneous as the 'charades' in verse which every member of the family wrote."[5] Jenkyns sums up the Juvenilia as "... nevertheless impressive—and surprising. For they reveal a boisterous, hoydenish, sometimes surreal imagination; they are immensely high-spirited, anarchic, occasionally violent in a cartoonish way, and often hilariously funny." He continues by comparing Austen's early work with the work of Laurence Sterne, Edward Lear, Eugène Ionesco and Monty Python[6]

Principal Individual Works[edit]

Frederic & Elfrida[edit]

[To Come]

Jack & Alice[edit]

[To Come]

Love and Freindship[edit]

In 1790, at age 14, Austen dedicated one of her most ambitious early stories, a 33 page satirical "black comedy" entitled Love and Freindship [sic], to her cousin Eliza. In Love and Freindship, Austen mocked popular novels of sensibility by writing her own exaggerated version. The narrator, Laura, in late middle age tells her life story to a friend in a series of letters. Laura, her particular friend Sophia and their respective husbands live lives of perfect sensibility in accordance with all of the then-popular conventions. Laura's husband Edward is free to fall instantly in love with and marry Laura because he has broken an engagement to another woman. Unexpectedly, Edward's father had approved of this match. Since Edward "knows that all fathers ought to be mocked and defied..." he breaks the engagement.[7] Most of Laura's story consists of travel, involving many sentimental and violent adventures and a great deal of bad behavior: characters defy parental authority, steal, accumulate debts and flee from creditors; young ladies elope with fortune-hunting officers; and sons rob their mothers, leaving them to starve, and become actors and then opera stars. When Sophia's husband is imprisoned for theft, Edward wishes only to visit him in jail so that they can weep together. Sophia faints in the dew so often and so long that she eventually dies of exposure, warning Laura on her deathbed to "beware of fainting-fits...Though at the time they may be refreshing & Agreeable yet beleive [sic] me they will in the end, if too often repeated & at improper seasons, prove destructive to your Constitution...My fate will teach you this...Beware of swoons Dear Laura...."[8]

The History of England[edit]

The manuscript copy of The History of England from the reign of Henry the 4th to the death of Charles the 1st in the Juvenalia is dated November 26, 1791, shortly before Austen's sixteenth birthday. The History of England is a parody of popular historical writing, particularly the History of England published by Oliver Goldsmith in 1764. Goldsmith's History was written in a breezy, colloquial style similar to that of the least distinguished contemporary novels of sensibility. In The History of England, Austen imitated and exaggerated that style, writing familiarly and with tongue in cheek about historical figures. Nominally written by "a partial, prejudiced & ignorant Historian," the manuscript was illustrated by a series of miniature portraits done by Austen's sister Cassandra. Honan comments that Austen "reserved her best mockery for Protestant historians who treat death lightly, or for writers or those who do not understand what it is when a king, queen or saint dies." A sample: "Henry the 4th ascended the throne of England much to his own satisfaction in the year 1399, after having prevailed on his cousin & predecessor Richard the 2nd, to resign it to him, & to retire for the rest of his Life to Pomfret Castle, where he happened to be murdered." Tomalin points out that The History of England was full of allusions, verbal games and jokes intended for her family's amusement. For example, the narrator claims to be partial to the "roman catholic religion," a comment that would surely have attracted the amused attention of Austen's father and brother James.[9]

Lesley Castle[edit]

In early 1792, Austen wrote Lesley Castle, an epistolary story (described by Jenkyns as a "parody-farce") told in a more naturalistic manner and foreshadowing, in its treatment of characters, some of her later published novels.[10]

The Three Sisters[edit]

She presented The Three Sisters, a "distinctly brutal" story about mercenary matchmaking, to her brother Edward as a wedding present in December 1791.[11]

Catherine, or the Bower[edit]

Austen's story Catharine, or the Bower, is dated August 1792 and tells the story of Catharine, an orphaned young lady who lives with her Aunt Percival. She is friends with Cecilia and Mary Wynne, who too are orphaned, and without fortunes. Catharine's friends in quick succession leave her; Cecilia is forced to travel to India and marry "... a Man of double her own age, whose disposition was not amiable, and whose Manners were unpleasing, though his character was respectable."[12] Mary is taken to Scotland as a family companion by the Dowager Lady Halifax. Catharine quickly attaches herself instead to new arrival Camilla Stanley, a girl who claims to have much knowledge that she apparently does not really possess, such as in the instance where she claims to find the novels of Mrs Smith to be "the sweetest things in the world" before she admits she skipped past much of the novels "in such a hurry to know the end of it."

Catharine meets Camilla's brother, Edward, with whom she becomes besotted, and the two begin to act inappropriately. The novella is abandoned shortly after an incident in which Aunt Percival catches Edward kissing Catharine's hand in the bower of the garden.

Short Plays[edit]

Three short plays are included in this group of works: The Visit, noted for its sprightly dialog, The Mystery, inspired in part by Sheridan's recently-produced play The Critic, and The First Act of a Comedy, described by George Holbert Tucker as "a brief but lively burlesque on a family en route to London."[13]

Works Not Included[edit]

Lady Susan, Plan of a Novel, The Watsons


  1. ^ Brian Southam, "Juvenilia," in J. David Grey, editor, The Jane Austen Companion, Macmillan Publishing Company (New York 1986) [ISBN 0-02-545540-0], pp. 244-255; Kathryn Sutherland, "Chronology of composition and publication," in Janet Todd, editor, Jane Austen in Context, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, U. K. 2005) [ISBN 0-521-82644-0], p. 14.
  2. ^ Le Fay, "Chronology," p. 2; A. Walton Litz, "Chronology of Composition," in The Jane Austen Companion, p. 48; Honan, pp. 61-62, 70; Lascelles, p. 4, 8-10.
  3. ^ Lascelles, pp. 9-10.
  4. ^ Sutherland, p. 14.
  5. ^ Lascelles, p. 9.
  6. ^ Jenkyns, p. 31.
  7. ^ Honan, pp. 73-74.
  8. ^ Quoted in Litz, Jane Austen, p.21; Tomalin, p. 47; Honan, pp. 73-74; Southam, "Juvenalia," in The Jane Austen Companion, pp. 248-249; .
  9. ^ Tomalin, pp. 66,67; Honan, pp. 74-76; Southam, "Juvenalia," pp. 245, 249-251.
  10. ^ Tomalin, pp. 65-67, 78-81; Jenkyns, pp. 30-33.
  11. ^ Characterized in Tomalin, pp.78-79.
  12. ^ Quoted in Tomalin, pp. 80-81. This is thought to be a reflection of the life story of George Austen's sister, the mother of Jane Austen's cousin Eliza.
  13. ^ Tucker, "Amateur Theatricals at Steventon," pp. 2-3; Honan, pp. 52-53.


[Edit to fit cited works when article is complete]

Biographical works[edit]

  • Austen, Henry Thomas (1817). "Biographical Notice of the Author" in Northanger Abbey: and Persuasion. London: John Murray, Albemarle Street. 
  • Austen-Leigh, James Edward (1926 (reprinted 1967; originally published 1870)). A Memoir of Jane Austen. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  • Austen-Leigh, William (1913). Jane Austen: Her Life and Letters — A Family Record. London: Smith, Elder & Co.  Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help)
  • Fergus, Jan (1991). Jane Austen: A Literary Life. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-44701-8. 
  • Honan, Park (1987). Jane Austen — A Life. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-01451-1. 
  • Le Fay, Deirdre, editor (1995). Jane Austen's Letters. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-283297-2. 
  • Tomalin, Claire (1997). Jane Austen — A Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-679-44628-1. 

Literary criticism[edit]

Essay collections[edit]

  • Copeland, Edward (1997). Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen. Cambridge, U. K.: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-49867-8.  Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help)
  • Grey, J. David, managing editor (1986). The Jane Austen Companion. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company. ISBN 0-52-545540-0. 
  • Lynch, Deidre, editor (2000). Janeites: Austen's Disciples and Devotees. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-05005-8. 
  • Todd, Janet, editor (2005). Jane Austen In Context. Cambridge, U. K.: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-82644-6. 
  • Todd, Janet, editor (2006). The Cambridge Introduction to Jane Austen. Cambridge, U. K.: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-85806-9. 
  • Watt, Ian, editor (1963). Jane Austen — A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-130-53769-0. 


  • Butler, Marilyn (1975). Jane Austen and the War of Ideas. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-812968-8. 
  • Devlin, D. D. (1975). Jane Austen and Education. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-14431-2. 
  • Galperin, William (2003). The Historical Austen. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 0-812-23687-4. 
  • Jenkyns, Richard (2004). A Fine Brush on Ivory — An Appreciation of Jane Austen. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-927761-7. 
  • Johnson, Claudia L. (1988). Jane Austen — Women, Politics and the Novel. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-40139-1. 
  • Kirkham, Margaret (1983). Jane Austen: Feminism and Fiction. Brighton: Harvester. ISBN 0-710-80468-7. 
  • Lascelles, Mary (1939; reprint 1966). Jane Austen and Her Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  • Litz, A. Walton (1965). Jane Austen — A Study of Her Development. New York: Oxford University Press. 
  • Waldron, Mary (1999). Jane Austen and the Fiction of Her Time. Cambridge U. K.: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-00388-1. 
  • Empty citation (help)