For the Jane Austen Fan Who Has Everything

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.

518z9Dgg9QL._SX408_BO1,204,203,200_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.

austen jane history 014601-2

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)

Don’t forget to catch up with all the bloggers participating in the #30PostsHathSept Blog Challenge!

What childhood books changed your life?

Please use the comments section to answer this question:

What books from your childhood changed your life?

I already have a few answers from last week’s Children’s Book Week Giveaway and will add them to what you share here for a post later this week. Below are also some thoughts on this topic, slightly updated, that I wrote almost four years ago.

How Reading Changed Saved My Life

When I first saw Anna Quindlen’s slim book (an extended essay, really) in the library, I misread the title as How Reading Saved My Life. After reading the book, I believe that either title works, and I strongly recommend the book for all whose love of reading has sustained them or even perhaps saved them.

The most powerful parts of the book for me were the discussions of childhood reading. When her mother prodded her to go outside to play with her friends, Anna felt “the lure of what I knew instinctively was normal childhood… the promise of being what I knew instinctively was a normal child, one who lived, raucous, in the world.”

How many of us now adult writers felt, or were told explicitly, that “normal” children didn’t live with their heads in a book? Those other, less embarrassing children preferred to go outside, to play in the beautiful sunshine (or the snow or even the mud). They preferred to be around people who were real.

What Quindlen does so well is to redeem the lure of that comfy reading chair or floor or bed, the pleasure of the printed word. She suggests that readers stop feeling guilty for preferring, in the words of Laurie Helgoe, author of “The Revenge of the Introvert,” “the inner world of their own mind rather than the outer world of sociability.” Helgoe writes that introverts (and I suspect that most obsessive young readers are introverts, at least in part) would “rather find meaning than bliss.” Perhaps more to the point, they find their bliss in meaning through reading.

My Incomplete List

Quindlen gave me the precious gift of remembering the books from my own childhood that I devoured, books that were sweeter than the sticky candy my grandfather kept in his pocket and more eagerly anticipated than my mother’s most delicious dinners:

  • The Little House on the Prairie Series
  • The Hardy Boys Series
  • Anything by Stephen King, but especially his collection of short stories Night Shift, which I read and re-read late at night, purposefully scaring myself silly
  • Pippy Longstocking
  • Heidi
  • Little Women (what female writer didn’t identify with Jo?!)
  • A paperback titled The High House (or maybe just High House) that I remember adoring and re-reading several times, but that I can’t seem to find a copy of, nor can I remember the author
  • Star Trek fan fiction and episode adaptations
  • Not a book, but Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine

Little HouseThose are only the titles that come immediately to mind; I could go on and on, as I’m sure you all could, too. Before reading How Reading Changed my Life, I may have been reluctant to share such a low-brow list, but Quindlen reminds us, “Show me a writer who says she was inspired by the great masters, and I’ll show you someone who is remembering it wrong, or the way she thinks the world wants it remembered.”

A Far, Far Better Thing

As I adult, of course, I have grown to enjoy many of the great masters. Reading A Tale of Two Cities in London a few summers ago, only blocks from one of Dickens’s residences, I felt a sense of community with the book’s world and characters and themes, a oneness that can be so frustratingly elusive in the here and now. Lest we think the experience is solipsistic, science now suggests that we may carry this socialization and empathy with us to the world outside the printed page.

Quindlen explains how reading makes us “less lonely” by offering a kind of comforting consistency and continuity, through “words that would always be the same, only the reader different each time, so that today, or next year, or a hundred years from now, someone could pick up A Tale of Two Cities, turn to the last page, and see that same final sentence, that coda that Dickens first offered readers in 1859: ‘It is a far, far better thing…’”

Book Love

I leave you with one last passage from How Reading Changed My Life that, I hope, will help you to put away any lingering doubts or shame you may still have about all those beautiful days “wasted” with your nose in a book:

“Reading has always been my home, my sustenance, my great invisible companion. ‘Book love,’ Trollope called it. ‘It will make your hours pleasant to you as long as you live.’ Yet of all the many things in which we recognize some universal comfort—God, sex, food, family, friends—reading seems to be the one in which the comfort is most undersung, at least publicly, although it was really all I thought of, or felt, when I was eating up book after book, running away from home while sitting in that chair, traveling around the world and yet never leaving the room. I did not read from a sense of superiority, or advancement, or even learning. I read because I loved it more than any other activity on earth.”

What books from your childhood changed (or even saved) your life?

Kindle Comfort

When I go on a trip, I usually pack books the way our son used to pack his stuffed animals:I know I can’t take them all, but there is no way I can limit myself to two or three, much less one, and I feel guilt for leaving any of my favorites behind. I like to have enough reading options to suit whatever literary mood I might be in, whatever reading comfort needs I might have. At the same time, books are heavy, so I usually end up with a backache from pulling around overloaded suitcases and shouldering bulging backpacks.

As I start packing for an out-of-town trip tomorrow, I realize I now can take along as many books as I want.

After the lengthy decision-making process of buying one, it took me awhile to warm up to my Kindle, but warm up I have. For me, e-reading is not replacing paper-reading. I still usually cuddle up with a paperback or hard cover when I have time to read in the evening. But I am also finding the same reading pleasure from e-books, the same “book love” that Trollope wrote about and Anna Quindlen quotes. Writing is writing. Words are words. Pages are pages. Books are books. I don’t believe the Nietzschean pronouncements that the physical book is dead (or dying). It just has a new cousin.

My hotel roommate this weekend also recently got a Kindle, so I’m excited to compare resources and titles. Below are a few good sources of Kindle-formatted e-books that I’ve found:

And here’s a title I might browse on the plane. 😉 (I’m happy with the e-cover!)

The Homeschooling Option