The appetite for Everything Jane seems to know no bounds. Jane Austen’s six full-length novels are as beloved as anything written in the English language, inspiring fan fiction, film, and other forms of popular culture nearly two hundred years after the author’s death.
If you are looking for a gift for a Jane Austen fan in your life who already has Jane phone covers and finger puppets, movies and coffee mugs, here is an idea that is as informative as it is entertaining: All three of Jane’s volumes of juvenilia (works written while she was young) are available from Amazon in hard cover as a boxed set (published by Abbeville Press). The price is good for the quality. Each volume contains both facsimile pages of the original notebooks and typed transcriptions.
The original vellum notebooks in which Jane wrote were gifts from her father, indicative of her family’s support for her talent. Jane began writing in them when she was eleven or twelve, penning the last dated entry when she was seventeen. The first volume is at Oxford’s Bodleian Library, and the second and third are at London’s British Library.
Even in the first volume, one can hear Jane’s distinctive voice and subtle, quick humor. This is from a short sketch titled “The Adventures of Mr. Harley”:
Mr. Harley was one of many Children. Destined by his father for the Church & by his Mother for the Sea, desirous of pleasing both, he prevailed on Sir John to obtain for him a Chaplaincy on board a Man of War. He accordingly cut his Hair and sailed.
In the second volume, she partnered at age 16 with her older sister, Cassandra, to write a light-hearted “History of England.” Cassandra provided illustrations.
You can see all of the juvenilia notebooks in facsimile, as well as other Austen manuscripts, at Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts. Janeites might also enjoy the TLS essay “Ungentle Jane” that features the juvenilia, and a podcast from a recent Chawton House Library conference celebrating 20 years since the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.
Finally, for your viewing pleasure (and nostalgia for parents who raised children in the 90’s), below is the Wishbone version of Pride and Prejudice, “Furst Impressions,” in three parts (Austen’s working title for Pride and Prejudice was First Impressions).
“Furst Impressions” (part 1 of 3)
“Furst Impressions” (part 2 of 3)
“Furst Impressions” (part 3 of 3)
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