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Juvenilia

Juvenilia - Jane Austen, Peter Sabor This is one of the Cambridge series of Austen's work, so it's an all-out nerdathon. Let me put it this way: there are footnotes and endnotes. And lots of them. Like, only about half of this book is actually written by Austen. If that made you drool (or gave you a Special Feeling I don't want to hear about), get this particular edition.

If you love the idea of teenage Jane Austen goofing off on the page, but don't necessarily need to have every Regency phrase, concept, proper noun, common noun, adjective, adverb, conjunction-junction, and Austen-breakfast-of-choice explained in detail, grab one of the more affordable and less nerdarific editions of Austen's juvenilia. There are plenty to choose from.

Oh -- and bear in mind that this edition doesn't include Lady Susan. Whether that strikes you as good or bad news is between you and your God. (I know some people detest LS. I happen to find it awesome. I'll be the first to admit I'm weird.)

This is a collection of the many funny things Austen wrote as a teen to amuse herself and her family. If she had only lived long enough to write these tidbits, Austen wouldn't be a household name; but her name would certainly have survived, and nerds like me would be speculating as to what kind of adult work this promising young woman would have produced if she'd only had the chance.

(I realize I just posited a universe without Pride and Prejudice. I have to go make a cup of cocoa and hug my biggest, fluffiest stuffed animal. BRB.)

Do not expect cuteness. Austen's juvenile works are shocking so far as content is concerned. There's murder:

I murdered my father at a very early period of my Life, I have since murdered my Mother, and I am now going to murder my Sister. (from "A Letter from a Young Lady, whose feelings being too Strong for her Judgement led her into the commission of Errors which her Heart disapproved," a title almost longer than the story itself)

Suicide:

It was not till the next morning that Charlotte recollected the double engagement she had entered into [she said yes to two marriage proposals in the space of about ten minutes]; but when she did, the reflection of her past folly, operated so strongly on her mind, that she resolved to be guilty of a greater, & to that end threw herself into a deep stream which ran thro' her Aunt's pleasure Grounds in Portland Place. She floated to Crankhumdunberry where she was picked up & buried; the following epitaph, composed by Frederic, Elfrida & Rebecca, was placed on her tomb.

EPITAPH
Here lies our friend who having promis-ed
That unto two she would be marri-ed
Threw her sweet Body & her lovely face
Into the Stream that runs thro' Portland Place.


Drinking and gambling:

The Johnsons were a family of Love, & though a little addicted to the Bottle & the Dice, had many good Qualities. (They are later carried home from a party "Dead Drunk.")

Hooliganism:

The beautifull [sic] Cassandra then proceeded to a Pastry-cooks where she devoured six ices, refused to pay for them, knocked down the Pastry Cook & walked away.

Young women marrying solely for money:

"Oh! when there is so much Love on one side there is no occasion for it on the other. However I do not much dislike him tho' he is very plain to be sure."

And let's not forget cannibalism!

She began to find herself rather hungry, & had reason to think, by their biting off two of her fingers, that her Children were much in the same situation.

Note: if you only read Austen for the romance, you may want to skip this volume of her work.