Jane Austen's Juvenilia highlighted in article


The Contra Costa Times, inspired by the stage production of EMMA currently at the Aurora Theatre, takes a look at Jane’s Juvenilia.

What sort of teenager, for instance, was Austen? Jane was born on Dec. 16, 1775, at the parsonage of Steventon, in Hampshire, England, where her father was rector. With that genteel background, was she a prim and proper little lady as we usually imagine young girls of that time?

Probably. But she was also wickedly (sorry, Jane) funny. From around the age of 13 to 17, she wrote her “Juvenilia,” a collection of short satiric and farcical pieces for the amusement of her family. (She was the youngest of seven children).

Here are a few sample lines:

“Bless me! There ought to be eight chairs and there are but six. However, if your Ladyship will but take Sir Arthur in your lap and Sophy my brother in hers, I believe we shall do pretty well.” (Eat your heart out, Monty Python.)

She was also dead-on at burlesquing the literary conventions of the day:

“Her father was of noble birth, being the near relation of the Duchess of ——–‘s butler.”

She captured the puffed-up speech of the landed gentry with these lines between a daughter and her father in a play-let:

PISTOLETTA: Pray, papa, how far is it to London?

POPGUN: My girl, my darling, my favorite of all my children, who art the picture of thy poor mother who died two months ago, with whom I am going to town to marry to Strephon, and to whom I mean to bequeath my whole estate — it wants seven miles.

The same mini-play also included this “immortal couplet”:

“I am going to have my dinner,

After which I shan’t be thinner.”

Dear, dear little Jane, most of us didn’t know you had it in ya!

We opine that “most of us” does not include the readers of AustenBlog. (If it does, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of the Juvenilia now!)