Jane Austen, Juvenilia, Volume the third (#Review)

This month my Jane Austen group completed our reading of Jane Austen’s Juvenilia. (Click the links for my thoughts on the first and second volumes.)

Volume the third is a little different to the other two, as it contains just two unfinished works:

  • Evelyn
  • Catharine, or The bower

Both were written in 1792, when she was 16 to 17 years old.

As with the other volumes, the pieces were later transcribed by her into three notebooks, but there is evidence in this volume of other handwriting. There is uncertainty about the provenance, but the thought is that they were transcribed by her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh and his daughter Anna. Certainly, handwriting analysis suggests it is their hands, but probably not their words.


Evelyn is an absurd, preposterous story about the idyllic town of Evelyn. A young man comes to town and wants to live there, but every house is inhabited, due to “the sweetness of the Situation, & the purity of the Air” not to mention the fact that “neither Misery, Illhealth, or Vice are ever wafted”. Luckily for him, a family there has “a peculiar Generosity of Disposition” and, immediately on meeting him, agree to give him their house and their daughter in marriage. The laugh-out-loud ludicrousness continues from there.

This story has received very little attention, compared with most of the other juvenilia. Shawn Normandin suggests this is partly because it

seems relatively distant from feminist concerns: its protagonist is male, and its female characters lack the refreshing assertiveness that distinguishes many of the juvenilia’s heroines.

Normandin argues, however, that it is worth considering because it “attempts with extreme–and hilarious–rigour to imagine a true gift”. He discusses it in the light of Jacques Derrida’s work Given time. I’m afraid that I didn’t give this time. However, I do like the idea that Evelyn could be considered within the context of Austen’s questioning “the new Enlightenment capitalism”, as Doody suggests, because it is clear that Austen was engaged in the political ideas of her time. Anyhow, Normandin concludes that Evelyn “may be western literature’s keenest examination of the gift because, not in spite of, its absurd frivolity.”

It’s probably worth giving this article more time, but, meanwhile, one thing I did notice about Evelyn is that although the story is extreme, like the earlier juvenilia, the actual writing is a little more controlled, a little less breathless, and injected with a little more setting and description.

Catharine, or The Bower

Not only does Catharine continue – I’m assuming it was written after Evelyn – in this more controlled vein, but even more so, as it moves into the realism for which Austen’s published novels are known. Catharine, or The bower tells the story of a young woman, who, having been orphaned when very young, is being brought up lovingly but severely protectively by “a Maiden Aunt”, who fears the impact on her charge of “Young Men”. Of course, a Young Man appears!

Catharine is a little tricky to read because, while Austen had done some editing as late as 1810/11, there are confusing changes of names. Catharine is variously named Catherine and Kitty in the text, but, even trickier, is that her aunt is sometimes called Mrs Peterson and sometimes Mrs Percival!

Anyhow, for me, and for some others in our group, it contains clear hints of Northanger Abbey (which Austen first wrote around 1798/9) – of Catherine (note the name) Morland (her youthful naïveté tempered by some good sense), of Isabella Thorpe, and of the interest in young men and propriety.

Catharine also contains one of my favourite Austen quotes about reading. Catharine tells her friend Camilla:

but for my own part, if a book is well written, I always find it too short.

Some of the themes that we see in Austen’s later novels are here, including women’s education (the focus on the attainment of accomplishments versus “useful knowledge and Mental Improvement”), indulgent parenting, city versus country, the idea of women and daughters made destitute on the death of a husband/father (as happens to the Dashwoods in Sense and sensibility), thoughtless young men (like Frank Churchill in Emma). Margaret Anne Doody claims that these “early works were important companions to her during the rest of her writing career” which supports my suggestion that these works were used as sources for ideas, like writers use notebooks today.

The style, as I’ve already said, is calmer, and more formal. There is more of the sort of authorial commentary that we see in her later works. Here’s Catharine, having been easily convinced that the young man who had departed without a farewell, did really like her:

She went in high spirits to her Aunt’s apartment, without giving a Moment’s recollection on the vanity of Young Women or the unacountable conduct of Young Men.

Also, Catharine evinces, says Doody, Claudia Johnson’s argument for Austen’s engagement with politics. Certainly, our character Catharine is frustrated by Camilla’s ongoing chatter about fashion and her refusal to talk about anything else – “She found no variety in her conversation; She received no information from her but in fashions”. Catharine, on the other hand, wants to talk about books and politics.

Here is a good time to share some ideas from Doody’s Introduction to the World Classics edition of the juvenilia. She suggests that Austen, following the rejection in the 1800s of Susan (later Northanger Abbey) and First impressions (later Pride and prejudice), tamed her writing to meet the marketplace. Perhaps, but, I see Catharine as already showing some of this taming down.

Doody discusses the different ways the juvenilia can be approached, and the drawbacks to these. For example, she suggests that seeing them as pointers to later writings – which most of us do – results in our missing “their important effects”. I take her point, but only to a degree, because I’m convinced that we can see the later Austen in these early works.

However, I like that she sees the subversiveness of Austen’s early work, something that was not recognised, she says, by critics like David Cecil. GK Chesterton, on the other hand, praised the early works. In 1922, he said

she was original … naturally exuberant … she could have been a buffoon like the Wife of Bath if she chose. This is what gives an infallible force to her irony. This is what gives a stunning weight to her understatements.

Doody concludes that the mature Austen chose to write “the realistic novel of courtship”, because that was the way to publication. She “had to pretend that the world was better and its general fictions more reliable than she knew them to be”. That’s possibly true, but Austen was seen as formally innovative in her writing, which suggests that her published novels were not completely against the grain, even if they were toned down versions of what she privately felt?


  • Doody, Margaret Anne. “Introduction” in Jane Austen’s Catharine and Other Writings, edited by Margaret Anne Doody and Douglas Murray. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1998.
  • Normandin, Shawn. “Jane Austen’s “Evelyn” and the “Impossibility of the Gift”.” Criticism 60, no. 1 (2018): 27-46. (Accessed via JSTOR)

Jane Austen
“Juvenilia. Volume the third” (ed. R.W. Chapman & Brian Southam)
in The Oxford illustrated Jane Austen. Vol VI, Minor works
London: Oxford University Press, 1969 (rev. ed.)
pp. 179-242
ISBN: 19 254706 2

Jane Austen, Lesley Castle (#Review)

I mentioned in my post on the second volume of Jane Austen’s Juvenilia, that I might do a separate post on one of its longer pieces, Lesley Castle. It’s one of her three longer pieces in that volume, and is often published separately or in other compilations, so warrants some attention, methinks!

Lesley Castle

Lesley Castle is another of Austen’s epistolary pieces. According to Juliet McMaster, writing in Persuasions Online, it represented a “step forward” in epistolary novels because the writers correspond with each other, rather than to someone “off-stage”. In this piece, in fact, there are several correspondents, writing to each other, resulting in different perspectives being offered on some of the main “characters”.

Lesley Castle is essentially an unfinished collection of correspondence between various “friends” who talk mostly of marriage – and of each other. Like many of the Juvenilia pieces, it demonstrates Austen’s love of writing about wickedness. It starts with Margaret writing of her brother’s adulterous wife running off, leaving not only her husband but her 2-year-old child, and of her widowed father, “fluttering about the streets of London, gay, dissipated and thoughtless at the age of 57”. Her correspondent, Charlotte, reports back about her tragedy, the death of her sister’s fiancé from falling off his horse, but she is more interested in food than in her bereaved sister. Insensitively, she describes her distraught sister’s face being “as White as a Whipt syllabub“. Such-self-centredness is rife in Austen – and you can hear her cheeky teenage self laughing as she wrote it!

Interestingly, this story is set largely in Scotland, which Austen never visited, and rarely mentioned in her works. Why Scotland, then? One reason could be to mock the vogue at the time for things Scottish. Margaret claims that she and her sister are happy there:

But tho’ retired from almost all in the World, (for we visit no one but the M’Leods, the M’Kenzies, the M’Phersons, the M’Cartneys, the M’donalds, the M’Kinnons, the M’lellans, the M’Kays, the Macbeths and the Macduffs) we are neither dull not unhappy …

The inclusions of “the Macbeths and Macduffs” is an additional pointer to Austen’s love of nonsense. She used lists frequently in the Juvenilia, often ending them with something extra “silly” to make her point. As I said in my first Juvenilia post, subtlety was to come in her mature works!

The new Lady Lesley, the aforementioned dissipated father’s new wife, is not so taken. She is also a friend of Charlotte’s and writes to her about her new Scottish-based step-daughters:

I wish my dear Charlotte that you could but behold these Scotch giants; I am sure they would frighten you out of your wits. […] Those girls have no music, but Scotch airs, no drawings but Scotch mountains, and no books but Scotch poems–and I hate everything Scotch.

Charlotte, meanwhile, had written to Margaret about Lady Lesley whom she sees as favouring “haunts of Dissipation” (essentially, cities):

Perhaps however if she finds her health impaired by too much amusement, she may acquire fortitude sufficient to undertake a Journey to Scotland in the hope of finding it at least beneficial to her health, if not conducive to her happiness.

The piece continues in this sort of vein with the correspondents often writing at cross-purposes, and, it must be said, focusing more on self-interest than the needs of others.

Of course, Austen readers always look for hints not only of style and themes (here, self-centredness, snobbishness, sensibility, hypocrisy, country versus city, and marriage) but of characters to come. In Lesley Castle, Charlotte reminds us particularly of a few Emma characters: Mr Woodhouse and his focus on food (though his is of a very particular type), Mrs Elton and her self-centred obliviousness to the needs of others, and, even, says Heller (referenced below) of Miss Bates in her garrulousness.

Margaret is a good example of Austen’s deluded characters who see themselves one way, while showing themselves to be very different. Many of the letters open affectionately, but contain or end with cutting remarks. Margaret, for example, writes to Charlotte complaining about being admired by too “many amiable Young Men” and expressing her “Aversion to being so celebrated both in Public, in Private, in Papers, & in Printshops”. She continues:

How often have I wished that I possessed as little personal Beauty as you do; that my figure were as inelegant; my face as unlovely; and my Appearance as unpleasing as yours!

Lesley Castle is probably not for every-one. So, rather than try to convince you to read it, I’ll conclude with Zoë Heller in The Guardian. Writing about Austen’s youthful work, she says that “as always in Austen’s work, recklessness with facts and inattention to detail are the rhetorical clues to a deeper-seated, moral carelessness”. How perceptive.

Jane Austen
“Lesley Castle”
“Juvenilia. Volume the second” (ed. R.W. Chapman & Brian Southam)
in The Oxford illustrated Jane Austen. Vol VI, Minor works
London: Oxford University Press, 1969 (revision)
pp. 76-178
ISBN: 19 254706 2

Jane Austen, Juvenilia, Volume the second (#Review)

Last November, my Jane Austen group read the first volume (my review) of Jane Austen’s Juvenilia, with a plan to read the next two volumes during 2021. This month, we read the second volume, which contains pieces written, it is believed, between 1790 and 1793, when Austen was 14 to 17 years old. As with the other volumes, the pieces were later transcribed by her into three notebooks, with the original manuscripts now being lost (as far as we know). Interestingly, the notebook contents are not presented in perfect chronological order of her writing the pieces, so did she “curate” them in some way? Or did she just transcribe them, randomly, picking up pieces as she felt like it?

Anyhow, volume 2 includes three longer works – Love and freindshipLesley Castle and The history of England – plus other pieces. The contents are:

  • Love and freindship (13 June 1790, dated by Austen) (my separate post)
  • Lesley Castle (3 Jan to 13 April 1792)
  • The history of England (26 November 1791, dated by Austen) (my separate post)
  • A collection of letters (dedicated to a childhood friend, Miss Cooper, who was married on 11 December 1792)
  • Scraps (dedicated to niece Fanny Austen, who was born in Jan 1793)

For more intro, including why read the Juvenilia, please check my first post, linked above.


This volume contains fewer – but some longer – pieces than the first volume. As I’ve written separately on two of them (as linked above), I won’t focus on them here. Those two and, in fact, Lesley Castle, have been published in separate volumes and/or in other combinations, so they tend to be better known by Austen fans.

Austen scholar Brian Southam suggests that Austen transcribed these pieces (which, evidence suggests, she was still doing in 1809) in order to “keep” them? Why? One reason is that they were read aloud in family circles as a form of entertainment. We know this because her brother Henry said so in the biographical notice he (most probably, it was he) wrote for the posthumous edition of Northanger Abbey:

She read aloud with very great taste and effect. Her own works, probably, were never heard so much to advantage as from her own mouth; for she partook largely in all the best gifts of the comic muse. 

This is supported, say those who have seen them, by the fact that the notebooks look well used.

I’d like to ponder an additional reason for her wanting to “keep” them, the reason used by many novelists – Helen Garner, for example – which is for possible use in future works. This seems to me to be particularly relevant to the section called A collection of letters. These letters could be seen as character studies, she could turn to. The letters are:

  • From a mother to her friend: in this letter the mother writes of bringing “out” both her daughters at the same time, which reminds me of all the Bennet girls being out at once in Pride and prejudice (and Lady Catherine’s horror at such an idea!)
  • From a young lady crossed in love to her freind: this young lady suffers from acute “melancholy” after being disappointed in love, so much so that her friends are alarmed for her: “They fear my declining health; they lament my want of spirits; they dread the effects of both”. This is closely reminiscent of Sense and sensibility’s Marianne Dashwood and her falling apart after being rebuffed my Willoughy, and, interestingly, the names Willoughby and Dashwood appear in this letter.
  • From a young lady in distress’d circumstances to her freind: This young girl is treated with supercilious kindness by the local lady, which of course, calls to mind Lady Catherine in Pride and prejudice.
  • From a young lady rather impertinent to her freind: This young lady brazenly admits in a letter to her friend that “I am not wanting for impudence when I have any end in view”. She recounts being very nosy about a new acquaintance’s life “and what had befallen her”. I can’t bring to mind a direct match in the novels but authors don’t reuse all ideas they jot down, do they? And, there are plenty of impudent young women in Austen, including Lucy Steele in Sense and sensibility.
  • From a young lady very much in love to her freind: Again, Sense and sensibility comes to mind – and Marianne – with the young lady Henrietta’s comment on instant attraction “… for that is the only kind of love I would give a farthing for–There is some sense in being in being in love at first sight”. The romance, however, is impacted by the love object’s estate not being enough for “Henrietta who has had an offer from a Colonel and been toasted by a Baronet”!

Following this collection of letters is the final group in the volume, just labelled Scraps. It comprises a Dedication to her young niece, Fanny, in which she describes the pieces as comprising her “opinions and admonitions on the conduct of young women”. These are delightful pieces of absurdity and nonsense. I wonder if they are the young Austen’s response to the stuffy conduct books for women that were popular at the time, like Reverend James Fordyce’s conduct book, Sermons to young women (1777) from which Pride and prejudice‘s earnest but stuffy and unempathetic Mr Collins reads to his young cousins.

More themes/concerns

In my last post, I focused particularly on themes and styles in the first volume, and most of what I said there also applies to the second volume. However, I thought I’d mention here some of the issues that I picked up in the second volume that reminded me of her first three novels, in particular. So, in the second volume, she parodies:

  • Gothic (seen in Northanger Abbey); 
  • overactive imagination and sensibility (found particularly in Northanger Abbey and Sense and sensibility); 
  • snobbishness (pointing particularly to Pride and prejudice)
  • self-centredness (found in all the novels, really)

It seems petty clear that in these early writings she was making fun of Gothic and 18th century literature’s favouring of sensibility over sense. I’d argue that she took up these ideas again in the first novels she wrote, Northanger Abbey and Sense and sensibility (though the former was published much later), but, as I wrote in my previous post, her tone in the Juvenilia is one of exuberant exaggeration and parody rather than the more sophisticated wit and irony we have in her adult novels.

I’ll finish here, but will be back with more Juvenilia later, including, perhaps, a separate post on Lesley Castle!

Jane Austen
“Juvenilia. Volume the second” (ed. R.W. Chapman & Brian Southam)
in The Oxford illustrated Jane Austen. Vol VI, Minor works
London: Oxford University Press, 1969 (revision)
pp. 76-178
ISBN: 19 254706 2

Jane Austen, Juvenilia, Volume the first (#Review)

Book coverJane Austen’s Juvenilia, which range over three manuscript notebooks, contain twenty-seven items, which, says Austen scholar Brian Southam, she put together “as a record of her work and for the convenience of reading aloud to the family and friends.”

While only four of the pieces are specifically dated, Austen scholars have worked out an order of writing. Most of those in “volume the first” date from 1787 to 1790 (from when Austen was 11/12 to 14/15.) The few pieces which she added at the end of this first volume come from 1793.

Why read the Juvenilia?

There are many reasons for reading an author’s juvenilia, which Juvenilia Press defines as “early writings by children and adolescents up to around 20 years of age”. They probably vary depending on the author and reader in question, but, for me, the reasons for reading Austen’s Juvenilia include for

  • insight into her development as a satirist;
  • insight into her understanding of the “depths of human perversity” (RF Brissenden);
  • insight into her understanding of the machinations of society, such as the nexus between marriage and money, and the place of women;
  • insight into her linguistic skill and wordplay;
  • insight into her writing development, including toying with forms like memoir, epistolary novels, adventures, plays, poems;
  • fun, because, depending on your sense of humour, they are a hoot.

If you love Austen, one of the reasons you love her is for her wit. In her Juvenilia, we see the origins of what later became a sophisticated (and arch) use of wit. In her Juvenilia, though, the humour is more variously described as nonsense, absurd, burlesque, farce, melodrama, parody, satire, comic, and so on. The humour is broad and realism absent, but oh, such fun.

For some recent thoughtful discussions of the Juvenilia, check out:

Meanwhile, I’m going to share, somewhat randomly, some of the things I enjoy!


Like many, I’m interested in the “proto-feminist” ideas in Jane Austen’s novels, and love that they are already apparent in the Juvenilia. Volume 1 is replete with heroines who are active, have agency, go on adventures, and drink with the best of them! Things may not always work out for them, but you can’t say they don’t give it a red hot go!

Take, for example, the resourceful Eliza (“Henry and Eliza”), whose “happy Junketings”, despite various misbehaviours, end up well in the end. Or Cassandra (“The beautiful Cassandra”), who runs off with a bonnet (rather than a man), gets into various scrapes, but returns home feeling she’s had a “day well spent”. (She reminded me, stupidly I suppose, of Pat Hutchins’ Rosie, in the picture book, Rosie’s walk. In fact, my Jane Austen group felt that “The beautiful Cassandra” would make a fine picture book”)

There are exceptions, though, like Mary in “The three sisters – a more sombre, and longer, work pointing to the adult Austen. Mary, the eldest of three sisters, receives “an offer of marriage” from a man she does not like. The problem is that he will marry one of her sisters if she doesn’t! She wants the “triumph” of marriage, but not the man. Mary’s superficial self-centredness reminded me of Sense and sensibility’s Mary Musgrove and, as one in my group said, of Pride and prejudice’s Lydia.

This brings me to a major theme found in the Juvenilia, that ongoing one in Austen’s novels, which I call “the marriage project”. It encompasses her understanding of the social and, particularly, economic factors affecting people’s marriage choices, and her support for marriages based on mutual affection and respect. Several of the stories are about marriage, and while the stories are frequently absurd, there is no doubt about the ideas lying behind them.

We also see in the stories, examples of hypocrisy, vanity, gullibility, deception, pomposity and greed – all of which appear, more subtly, in the novels. We see commentary on the times, suggesting Austen was a keen observer of what was going on around her. There are reference to the education of young women “in the Paths of Virtue” (by a Governess who elopes with the Butler!) (“Jack and Alice”); to large families which we know Austen saw as problematic, particularly for the poor child-bearing women; and to the preference for male children.

Something we don’t find so much in the Juvenilia are the delightful aphorisms that pepper Austen’s adult novels. The Juvenilia are, generally, too over-the-top to contain these more measured pronouncements. But, I did find a couple. In “Edgar and Emma”, there’s a couple who “were indeed very sensible people & tho’ (as in this instance) like many other Sensible people, they sometimes did a foolish thing …” The later Austen would have worked this up into something more general, but you get the gist.

And, in “The three sisters”, is:

he hates dancing & … what he hates himself he has no idea of any other person’s liking …

So wise so young! (And reminiscent of “One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.” Emma)


The best fun though comes from the writing itself. It can be so absurd, so exaggerated, that you can’t help but feel what fun the young Austen had writing them, and how much laughter there must  have been when they were read in the family circle.

In the play, “The visit”, there is a dinner party for 8 people but, wah!, there are only 6 chairs:

Miss F: Pray be seated. [They sit] Bless me! there ought to be 8 Chairs & there are but 6. However, if your Ladyship will but take Sir Arthur in your lap, & Sophy my Brother in hers, I believe we shall do pretty well.

Lady H: With pleasure

The absurdity here is two-fold – not only do we have guests being asked to sit in each other’s laps, but men are asked to sit in women’s laps. How subversive the young Jane was!

Much of the fun, in these pieces, is situational, like the lap-sitting above, but these is also much evidence of Austen’s linguistic ability, her love of words and language. There are silly place names, like Crankhumdunberry (“Frederic and Elfrida”) and Pammydiddle (“Jack and Alice”). There’s alliteration, like Rebecca being “surrounded by Patches, Powder, Pomatum & Paint” (“Frederic and Elfrida”). There’s wordplay, like “variety of variegated flowers” (“Frederic and Elfrida”).

Exaggeration is a favourite technique in the Juvenilia, and is fundamental to much of the humour. We have a marriage not being supported in “Frederic and Elfrida”

on account of the tender years of the young couple, Rebecca being but 36 & Captain Roger little more than 63. To remedy this, it was agree that they should wait a little until they were a good deal older.

They waited 7 days! (And, note the inversion of the two ages.)

We have a young woman’s leg being caught in a steel trap (“Jack and Alice”). It is set by Lady Williams “with great skill which was the more wonderful on account of having never performed such a one before.” Even more miraculous is that the young lady “then arose from the ground” and found herself able to “walk with the greatest ease”.

We have another young woman, who, unrequited in love, retires to her room and “continued in tears for the remainder of her Life” (“Edgar and Emma”).

Austen also uses puns and irony. In “Henry and Eliza”, a ridiculous story is accepted as a “rational and convincing account”. And, of course, there’s melodrama with suicidal drownings, shootings and poisonings – all very un-Austen-like.

The overall effect is one of exuberance, of a precocious and confident young writer, enjoying and exploring her talent.

But … what to make of it all …

What conclusions though can we draw? Are these often silly tales pure nonsense – which White suggests is antithetical to moral imperative – or do they point to the development of Austen as the moral commentator that many of us see? The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. In the Juvenilia – in the first volume anyhow – I’d argue that both are at play. Many of the stories could very well be seen as pure nonsense, written in great fun by a young woman working out what and how she could write. But others, like “The three sisters”, undeniably point to the Austen we know. Let’s see what I find when we do the second and third volumes next year.

Meanwhile. I’ll leave you with Devoney Looser’s assessment which accords perfectly with mine:

the juvenilia shows that Austen was a child-writer of great, raucous, gender-role-defying fun, an irreverent observer of life’s ridiculous conventions and fiction’s silly habits.

Jane Austen
“Juvenilia. Volume the first” (ed. R.W. Chapman & Brian Southam)
in The Oxford illustrated Jane Austen. Vol VI, Minor works
London: Oxford University Press, 1969 (revision)
pp. 1-75
ISBN: 19 254706 2

Ethel Turner, Tales from the “Parthenon” (Review)

Ethel Turner, Tales from the Parthenon

Courtesy: Juvenilia Press

Hands up if you’re an Aussie and didn’t read Ethel Turner’s Seven little Australians in your childhood. Surely no hands have gone up? Seven little Australians, her first novel, was published in 1894 when she was 24, and was an instant hit, eventually becoming a classic. According to Wikipedia, it was, in 1994 (and may still be), “the only book by an Australian author to have been continuously in print for 100 years”. It seemed only right then that I should choose Ethel Turner‘s Tales from the “Parthenon” for my third foray into the bundle of juvenilia books I bought back in April from Juvenilia Press.

Like Juvenilia Press’ other publications that I’ve read to date, Tales from the “Parthenon” contains a wealth of supporting material besides the actual juvenilia, including an in-depth introduction, notes on the text, endnotes and footnotes, an appendix, and a list of references.

Ethel Turner (1870-1958) and Mary Grant Bruce (1878 – 1958), whose juvenilia was the first I wrote on, were contemporaries, and, according to the Introduction, “dominated the market for children’s fiction in Australia”. However, while Bruce focused on the bush, and the national character as exemplified by bush living, Turner, whose career started earlier, had, says the Introduction, “already moved away from that tradition and firmly established her fiction in suburban Sydney”. The Introduction also tells us a little about Turner’s early writing career, at school and then immediately post-school. At school she and her sister, Lilian, established a magazine Iris when the school’s newspaper, Gazette, which was edited by another Australian writer-in-training, Louise Mack, rejected Ethel’s contributions!

Turner left school in 1888, and in 1889 she and her sister established another magazine, the Parthenon, which ran from 1 January 1889 to 4 April 1892. An impressive effort methinks for two young women. As you will have now gathered from the title of this volume, it is from this magazine that Pamela Nutt and her team have chosen works to represent Turner’s youthful writing.

While the focus on urban/suburban life and settings is one point of interest in Turner’s writing, another is her awareness of gender issues (though she wouldn’t of course have used such language). This is made clear in the Parthenon’s first issue in which they identified their goals. They wrote that their great grandmothers had learnt to write and spell, and their grandmothers had added “French, the harp and pianoforte, and the use of globes”, but

now the desire for knowledge in rapidly growing: deeper and deeper, woman goes into the mazy labyrinth, untrodden before by any but men’s footsteps,—culling the flowers of knowledge,—yes, and enjoying them, and appreciating them even as much as men do.

Ethel Turner was active during the first wave of feminism in the late 19th to early 20th centuries. While this early wave didn’t reject women’s domestic role and function, it did argue for women’s rights and recognition of intellectual equality. Turner fits within this paradigm. The Introduction suggests that her novel Miss Bobbie, of which an earlier serialised version appeared in Parthenon, promotes “vigour and independence” in young women but situates this within a world still framed by “patriarchal expectations”.

The Introduction mentions a third way in which Turner contributes to Australia’s literary tradition: incorporating Australian elements into traditional English fantasy. The pieces in this volume have been well-chosen to reflect all these aspects of her writing. They are all children’s pieces – “Gladys and the fairies” (in 2 chapters), “A dreadful pickle” (in 3 chapters), both published in 1889, and chapter 3 of “Bobbie” from 1890. And all feature spirited if not naughty girls. Jane Gleeson-White, in her Australian classics: 50 great writers and their celebrated works, quotes Turner’s opening to Seven little Australians:

Before you fairly start this story, I should give you just a word of warning. If you think you are going to read of model children, with perhaps a naughtily inclined one to point a moral, you had better lay down the book immediately … Not one of the seven is really good, for the very excellent reason that Australian children never are.

Gleeson-White’s point is that Turner may have been called Australia’s Louisa May Alcott, but her children are very different. And these juvenilia pieces show her moving down that path. Gladys is “dreadfully spoilt” and behaves tyrannically. However, time in Shadowland and Fairyland, forces her to rethink her ways, though not before she collapses in a typical Victorian faint! It is here we find English fairies in a new environment. Turner’s fairy queen rides in a chariot comprising “part of an emu’s egg, wondrously carved” with elfs* following, “dressed in yellow and riding locusts”.

Midge, the protagonist of “A dreadful pickle”, is also spoilt, and, like Gladys, treats her governess badly. However, she has a kind heart along with her independent spirit, and “wants to help poor people like those in London”. The story takes a Dickensian turn when Midge finds herself out of her depth and alone with some of these poor people. There’s some fun wordplay in this story – and I was intrigued by the note on the word “pallor” telling us that Turner used the American spelling that was popular in Australia at the time. The things you learn!

Then there’s Bobbie. We only have one chapter of her story. Bobbie, like Gladys and Midge, is in a household of boys, but in her case she’s been left there by her father who is travelling in Europe with his new wife. From the little excerpt we have, she seems to be a more developed character than Gladys and Midge, that is, less the typical spoilt child, but she too gets in a pickle when her perverse behaviour brings on teasing from one of the boys, with disastrous results. The notes on this story point out that Turner and Mary Grant Bruce “created strong female characters who challenged the Victorian stereotype of the submissive female”.

So, once again, I’ve enjoyed reading a well-known writer’s juvenilia, not just for evidence of the writer to come, but also for the insight provided into Turner’s times and the role her work plays in the development of Australian literature. These may be stories for children, written by girls, but the value of material like this for students of literature shouldn’t be underestimated.

My previous Juvenilia Press posts are on Mary Grant Bruce and Eleanor Dark.

awwchallenge2014Ethel Turner
(ed. Pamela Nutt, with students from Year 11, the Presbyterian Ladies College Sydney)
Tales from the “Parthenon”
Sydney: Juvenilia Press, 2014
ISBN: 9780733433740

* Turner’s plural form, not mine!

Eleanor Dark’s Juvenilia (Review)

Eleanor Dark's Juvenilia

Courtesy: Juvenilia Press

Eleanor Dark was quite a star in Australia’s literary firmament of the 1930s to 1950s, and has left an important legacy, not only in her most famous book The timeless land but also in the fact that her home Varuna in the Blue Mountains is now one of Australia’s most significant and loved writers’ retreats. It’s therefore wonderful that the Juvenilia Press was able to produce a book on her early work.

Unlike the Press’s volume on Mary Grant Bruce, which comprises works that push their definition of juvenilia, Eleanor Dark’s Juvenilia fits clearly within their guidelines. All pieces were written between 1916 and 1919, when Dark was 15 to 18 years old. Like the Bruce volume, it was edited by secondary school students and their teacher, rather than the Press’s more usual practice of using tertiary students. (The Press is a teaching press). The decision to use secondary school students is particularly appropriate for this volume as the students come from the school, Redlands, which Dark attended, in her childhood name of Pixie O’Reilly. Research for the volume included the school’s own archives, and all the pieces come from the school magazine, The Redlander. A Foundation Day speech given by the (then) school’s archivist, Marguerite Gillezau, is one of the appendices.

Like other Juvenilia Press editions, this book includes useful extra matter such as Pixie O’Reilly’s school report! There is, too, an introduction, this one titled “Pixie to Eleanor: From a spark to a flame”. It is creatively, and entertainingly, organised under headings taken from the school report – “Making fair progress”, “Very promising indeed”, and so on. The volume is also illustrated with photographs and other images from Dark’s school days – and there is also the list of references consulted.

As with most juvenilia, the pieces here provide an insight not only into the author’s childhood but also into the passions and interests they’ll develop later. Dark went to Redlands school in 1914 (an auspicious year) after her mother died. Although it was a girl’s school – why do I say “although”? – the school did not seclude its students. Indeed the school archivist in her Foundation Day speech said that, since its establishment in 1884, the school “has been aware of the world outside its front gates”, including war. One of Dark’s pieces in this volume is a poem about the First World War, “Jerusalem set free”.

For those of you who don’t know Dark, she and her husband were politically radical – or – socialist in leaning, something for which they were often persecuted. Not having read biographies of her, I cannot say how much of this may have come from the family, but the Introduction says that one writer on Dark, Marivic Wyndham, stresses the importance of the school’s ethos on her development. Wyndham writes that the school provided her “not only with flesh-and-blood models of the new woman and the radical intellectual she eventually adopted, but also with models of community and sisterhood that later featured prominently in her vision of a ‘good society'”.

These values are evident in the piece most dear to my heart, “The Gum Tree’s Story”. I loved this little 2-page piece for three reasons: it contains delightful descriptions of Australian flora; it contains a story-within-a-story about that Australian archetype, “the lost child in the bush”; and it’s an allegory about inclusion rather than exclusion. The story concerns Waratah who wants to organise a party to enliven his drooping companions but wishes to exclude the interloper White Rose. (Is it girlish, that the Rose is white not red, do you think?).

The other story in the volume – there are two stories and four poems – encompasses another theme common to classic Australian literature, the bushranger. Titled “‘Thunderbolt’s’ Discovery”, it tells of young boys on a picnic who play bushrangers – Australian readers will be aware that Captain Thunderbolt was a famous bushranger – and come across an unconscious man who, they imagine, is a bushranger. What I love in this is her description of the bush:

It was very deep in the bush. A clear stream trickled down over the rocks, and there was the faint bush smell of damp earth and fallen gum leaves. Maiden-hair grew thickly, and clumps of pale wide violets and pretty, delicate ferns. Where the stream was at its wildest a huge old tree had fallen across it, and the damp bark was covered with soft green moss. Further up the hillside flannel-flowers and Christmas bells grew among the tall bulrushes, and Christmas bush was already nearly in full bloom.

Dark, it is clear from this and “The Gum Tree’s Story” knew her botany – but I think she evokes it well too, without going overboard as young writers can do.

The four poems speak to different aspects of Dark’s girlhood – from the war to hatred of exams. They show someone comfortable with language and with expressing ideas through them. They also show an ability to mix tone, to work in the serious and the light, in the grand and the more personal, in the fanciful and the real.

Not everyone, I know, enjoys Juvenilia but I am thoroughly enjoying these texts, and the insight they provide into the writers to come. I look forward to telling you about the next one in, hopefully, a month or so.

awwchallenge2014Eleanor Dark
(ed. Jane Sloan with students from Redlands, Sydney)
Eleanor Dark’s Juvenilia
Sydney: Juvenilia Press, 2013
ISBN: 9780733433733

* The book only costs $12 plus postage, from the Press.

My previous posts on the Juvenilia Press are: Monday Musings and Mary Grant Bruce.

Mary Grant Bruce, The early tales (Review)

Mary Grant Bruce, Early Tales

Courtesy: Juvenilia Press

Around a month ago I wrote a Monday Musings post on the Juvenilia Press, and said that I would read and post on some of its publications. Well, here is the first of those posts.

While I discovered the press through its Jane Austen juvenilia, the books I ordered were those for juvenilia by Australian authors. My first reading choice was the Mary Grant Bruce volume. You probably haven’t heard of Bruce if you are not Australian, and perhaps not, even if you are. She is best known as the author of the children’s series, the Billabong books (1910-1942). They were published way before my time, but my mum knew them and gave them to me to read when I was a child. I loved them. They probably contributed to my early love of and identification with the Aussie outback.

However, the Juvenilia Press’s book, The early tales, contains two stories that Bruce wrote for an adult audience when she was working for The Leader newspaper in MelbourneThese stories push the envelope in terms of the Press’s criteria for juvenilia, which is that the works should be written when the author is 20 years old or younger. Bruce was born in 1878, and the two stories in this volume were published in 1898 (“Her little lad”) and 1900 (“Dono’s Christmas”). I’m glad though that they stretched their definition. Rules, after all, don’t always need to be slavishly followed.

I will get to the stories soon, but first, I want to comment on the quality of the publication. It might be juvenilia but it is thoroughly scholarly, as the Press aims. It contains an in-depth introduction, which, in the way of academic introductions, contains spoilers, so beware that if you don’t like spoilers. It also explains the source of the text, and the text itself is comprehensively annotated with notes explaining editorial decisions, linguistic features, and points of literary interest. There four appendices on a range of topics, including how Bruce represented the Australian voice/speech patterns in her writing. And, of course, there is a list of references.

Now to the stories. They are an interesting pair. Both were published as Christmas Supplements of The Leader. And both are stories about families – the first a poor selector family and the second a more comfortable squatter family. However, despite their difference in means, both families experience the challenge of living isolated lives in the harsh Australian bush. Money, it seems, may provide a more comfortable house, an extra room or two, but it can’t protect you from the dangers of a life lived in isolation.

The stories belong to the tradition that includes Henry Lawson’s The drover’s wife (1892) and Barbara Baynton’s The chosen vessel (1896). In both, the father must leave his family for a day or so (wife and toddler son in “Her little lad” and wife and two young sons under ten in “Dono’s Christmas”) – and, of course, a crisis ensues that the family must cope with alone. I don’t want to give the stories away but both stories involve snakes (as does also The drover’s wife). One also involves dangerous illness, and a child and a horse lost in a storm. In both stories, too, characters find themselves short of water. These are all common motifs in Australian bush literature. The introduction explores them, and refers us, for example, to other works, like Banjo Paterson’s poem “Lost” and Frederick McCubbin’s painting of the same title. (Longstanding readers here might remember my post on the lost child motif. I wasn’t making it up!)

What, though, is it all about? With so many stories – of which the four mentioned above are just a few – dealing with such similar subject matter, it’s clear that what is being portrayed is the Australian character, and what is being developed is a sense of national identity. The introduction defines this character as comprising “independence, resourcefulness and resilience”. The fiction, poetry and art of the period portray the hardship and the failures. Citing another McCubbin painting, the introduction suggests that these works don’t idealise, but they nonetheless convey a sense of nobility. (This is a generalisation, of course. Nobility can be hard to find in many of Baynton’s stories!)

I won’t write much more here because I’d love you to read them yourselves*: they are well-told stories that have an emotional punch alongside their historical interest. Rather, I’ll leave you with a couple of short excerpts describing the bush, starting with the opening of “Her little lad”:

Across the clearing fell the first rays of the sun, each laying a path of living gold upon the long, withered grass. They lit up the giant gums, and lingered lovingly in the tangle of clematis and convolvulus which wreathed their great branches; and as they fell the night wanderers of the bush – the awkward wallaby, the giddy possum, and the shy bandicoot – started in affright and fled every one to his hole. Then the sunbeams penetrated still further, through the wild scrub tangle, down to the quiet creek, and there they lay upon its surface, forming, with the reflection of the over-hanging trees, a delicate mosaic of shadow and gold. They opened the buds of the wild orchids, the swaying bluebells, and kindled into flame the orange clusters of the grevillea; and, on the hut in the midst of the clearing, they spread curiously, as who should ask by what right man, with this ungainly excrescence, so marred the face of nature.

The introduction doesn’t discuss whether Bruce also had an environmental agenda, but she clearly recognised “man’s” impact. But for now, here is the sun, in “Dono’s Christmas”:

The sun was already up, and seemed to be climbing quickly into the cloudless sky; it was going to be a real scorcher, Dono thought, and he resolved to push on as fast as he could before the great heat commenced, when he hoped to be in the shade of the bush. So he cantered sharply over the hard-baked plain, where the sun had split big gaping fissures in the dry earth …

Reading these stories reminded me why I so enjoyed her children’s novels way back when. What a thrill to have discovered this little book at the Juvenilia Press.

awwchallenge2014Mary Grant Bruce
(ed. Pamela Nutt with students from the Presbyterian Ladies College Sydney)
The early tales
Sydney: Juvenilia Press, 2011
ISBN: 9780733429415

* The book only costs $12 plus postage, from the Press.

Monday musings on Australian literature: Juvenilia Press

Literature enthusiasts are often not happy to just read their favourite authors’ novels. They (we) want to read everything written by our favourites. This can include letters, diaries and juvenilia. I have written before about Jane Austen’s Juvenilia, including a review of her story Love and freindship (sic). Her early works provide a wonderful insight into the development of her craft – both her style and her ideas.

Yesterday, I attended the excellent Mansfield Park Symposium at the Jane Austen Festival of Australia, about which I plan to post later. During the tea-break I browsed the little sales area and came across a collection of Jane Austen juvenilia works published by the Juvenilia Press. Naturally I bought a couple of their publications. What, you are probably wondering by now, does this have to do with Australian Literature? Read on …

Juvenilia Press was founded in 1994 at the University of Alberta, but moved in 2001 to the University of New South Wales. It is a non-profit international initiative managed by the School of the Arts and Media in the University’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. It is, as I understand it, a teaching press. Students are involved in “editing, annotating, designing and illustrating, under the supervision of established scholars from Britain, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland, the United States, and Australia”. It is, in other words, also a scholarly undertaking. The publications are peer-reviewed, are reviewed in scholarly journals, and have been recognised by the Times Literary Supplement.

The Press defines juvenilia as early writings by children and adolescents up to around 20 years of age. It has published works by Jane Austen, Margaret Atwood, Charlotte Brontë, Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens, Philip Larkin,  Margaret Laurence and …

Mary Grant Bruce, Early Tales

Courtesy: Juvenilia Press

Here’s the exciting part … Australian authors. Those published to date, are:

  • Mary Grant Bruce’s The early tales
  • Eleanor Dark’s Juvenilia
  • Dorothy Hewett’s The gipsy dancer and early poems
  • Ethel Turner’s Tales from the Parthenon

These gorgeous little books are priced around $12-15. As well as containing the author’s text, they include “light-hearted illustration, scholarly annotation, and an introduction that relates this work to the author’s mature writing”. The writers of these pieces are credited on the title page, as is the overall editor. For example, Jane Austen’s men, which contains four short pieces by her about men, such as “The adventure of Mr Harley”, was “edited by Sylvia Hunt and the students of ENGL3116 (English Romantic Literature) of Laurentian University at Georgian College”. The names of those who produced the introduction, annotations and illustrations are identified below that. Looks to me like a wonderful example of pedagogy in practice, with serious scholarship providing the backbone.

I have ordered the four Australian books I’ve listed here, and plan to write them up over the coming months as I manage to read them. If you would like to order any of the books, you need to print the form and mail it to the Press. Sounds like they need to get some IT or Accounting students involved to organise on-line ordering and payment!

It is in Jane Austen’s juvenilia piece, Catharine, or the bower, that we find her oft-quoted statement:

but for my own part, if a book is well-written, I always find it too short.

Juvenilia pieces are usually short, for pretty obvious reasons, but in their case, that’s usually part of their charm.

Virginia Woolf on Jane Austen’s Love and freindship

A couple of weeks ago I reviewed Jane Austen‘s juvenilia work, Love and freindship. I wanted, then, to share with you Virginia Woolf‘s take on Jane and the work, but decided it would be better as its own post, so here I am again.

Woolf was quite an essayist, as you probably know, as well as a novelist, and she wrote several essays about Jane Austen (as well as featuring Austen in her famous A room of one’s own). Today’s post was inspired by an essay that is simply titled, “Jane Austen”. You can read it at Project Gutenberg. The essay was published in 1925 in her book, The common reader, though it may have been previously published in a newspaper or journal. It says something, I think, that in an essay of just a few pages she devotes a couple of paragraphs to a piece of juvenilia (that is, Love and freindship). This is what she says:

To begin with, that prim little girl whom Philadelphia [a cousin] found so unlike a child of twelve, whimsical and affected, was soon to be the authoress of an astonishing and unchildish story, Love and Freindship, which, incredible though it appears, was written at the age of fifteen. It was written, apparently, to amuse the schoolroom; one of the stories in the same book is dedicated with mock solemnity to her brother; another is neatly illustrated with water-colour heads by her sister. These are jokes which, one feels, were family property; thrusts of satire, which went home because all little Austens made mock in common of fine ladies who “sighed and fainted on the sofa”.

Brothers and sisters must have laughed when Jane read out loud her last hit at the vices which they all abhorred. “I die a martyr to my grief for the loss of Augustus. One fatal swoon has cost me my life. Beware of Swoons, Dear Laura. . . . Run mad as often as you chuse, but do not faint. . . .” And on she rushed, as fast as she could write and quicker than she could spell, to tell the incredible adventures of Laura and Sophia, of Philander and Gustavus, of the gentleman who drove a coach between Edinburgh and Stirling every other day, of the theft of the fortune that was kept in the table drawer, of the starving mothers and the sons who acted Macbeth. Undoubtedly, the story must have roused the schoolroom to uproarious laughter. And yet, nothing is more obvious than that this girl of fifteen, sitting in her private corner of the common parlour, was writing not to draw a laugh from brother and sisters, and not for home consumption. She was writing for everybody, for nobody, for our age, for her own; in other words, even at that early age Jane Austen was writing. One hears it in the rhythm and shapeliness and severity of the sentences. “She was nothing more than a mere good-tempered, civil, and obliging young woman; as such we could scarcely dislike her–she was only an object of contempt.” Such a sentence is meant to outlast the Christmas holidays. Spirited, easy, full of fun, verging with freedom upon sheer nonsense,–Love and Freindship is all that; but what is this note which never merges in the rest, which sounds distinctly and penetratingly all through the volume? It is the sound of laughter. The girl of fifteen is laughing, in her corner, at the world.

I like the way Woolf looks at Austen with a writer’s eye – in regards to both content and style. I particularly love the line – “She was writing for everybody, for nobody, for our age, for her own; in other words, even at that early age Jane Austen was writing”. I like her recognition of Austen’s technical skill when she describes “the rhythm and shapeliness and severity of the sentences”. On top of all this, Woolf sees Austen’s humour, her ability to laugh at the world. The humour in this little piece of juvenilia is broad, but it’s there and Woolf saw and appreciated it.

And that’s all I’m going to say, because these two paragraphs stand on their own, don’t they?

Jane Austen, Love and freindship (Review)

Love and Freindship editions

Love and Freindship editions

If you are a Jane Austen fan, you don’t just read her six novels. You read her letters, her unfinished works and her juvenilia. And you read them more than once. So it is that I have just – for my local Jane Austen group – reread Love and freindship (sic), the short epistolary novel she wrote in her 15th year. It is a fun – and illuminating – read. It’s the illuminating part that I plan to focus on here.

But first, a little about the plot. It commences with a letter in which Isabella asks her friend Laura to tell her daughter “the Misfortunes and Adventures” of her Life. “You are this day 55”, she says, and surely now safe “from the determined Perseverance of disagreeable Lovers and the cruel Persecutions of obstinate Fathers”. Laura, while rejecting that she is too old for such “unmerited” misfortunes, agrees to tell her story  to Isabella’s daughter Marianne as a “useful lesson”. What follows is a melodramatic story of sudden friendships, quick-not-always legal marriages, and wild coincidences, accompanied by much fainting and “running mad”.

This doesn’t sound much like the writer described by Charlotte Bronte as “sensible and suitable” does it? And, in fact, this wildly improbable, effusive story isn’t much like her. Or is it? This is the point I’d like to explore a little in my post, because there are many seeds here of the writer Austen was becoming – of the things that were to concern her and of the style she was developing.

The thing that concerned her most was to make fun of silly or ridiculous people and ideas. The most obvious of these in Love and freindship was the late eighteenth century’s cult of sensibility, which involved the favouring of sensibility over sense, the fostering of an overactive imagination (as evidenced by the popularity of Gothic novels). But what is exaggerated and parodied in Love and freindship become more considered subjects in her first novels, Northanger Abbey and Sense and sensibility.

There are, for example, obvious similarities between Laura, here, Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey and Marianne in Sense and sensibility, but Laura’s complete refusal to recognise that sense has any place in her life is modified in Catherine and Marianne who learn through experience that their imagination and sensibilities, if left uncurbed, can get them into trouble. (Intriguingly the recipient of Laura’s letters is a Marianne. A little Austen in-joke perhaps?). Pride and Prejudice’s Lydia could perhaps be seen as Laura’s true heir: Lydia is not described in quite the same terms as Laura, but she certainly pays no credence to anything remotely sensible.

Now I’m going to be lazy and simply illustrate Austen’s changed approach with some comparative examples. Here is Laura on an older man, her husband’s father:

for what could be expected from a Man who possessed not the smallest atom of Sensibility, who scarcely knew the meaning of Simpathy, and who actually snored.

And here is Marianne, in love with the dashing Willoughby, on Colonel Brandon:

He was silent and grave. His appearance, however, was not unpleasing, in spite of his being in the opinion of Marianne and Margaret an absolute old bachelor, for he was on the wrong side of five-and-thirty; but though his face was not handsome his countenance was sensible, and his address was particularly gentlemanlike.

While Laura ends her tale with:

I took up my Residence in a romantic Village in the Highlands of Scotland where I have ever since continued, and where I can, uninterrupted by unmeaning Visits, indulge in a melancholy solitude my unceasing Lamentations for the Death of my Father, my Mother, my Husband, and my Freind.

Catherine learns her lesson and

… was completely awakened. Henry’s address, short as it had been, had more thoroughly opened her eyes to the extravagance of her late fancies than all their several disappointments had done. Most grievously was she humbled. … The absurdity of her curiosity and her fears — could they ever be forgotten? She hated herself more than she could express.

Exaggeration and parody are the tools used in Love and friendship, while the adult Austen used the more sophisticated, though no less funny, tools of wit and irony to achieve her satire.  And again, I’ll demonstrate with comparative examples. In Love and freindship she satirises novel-reading with broad humour:

“Where, Edward in the name of wonder (said he) did you pick up this unmeaning gibberish? You have been studying Novels I suspect.”

But in Northanger Abbey, the plot itself demonstrates the foolishness of reading novels unwisely, while a respected character conveys Jane’s truth:

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.

Love and friendship is unsubtle, and is clearly the work of a youthful writer, but it is a hoot to read and we are lucky to have it (and her other juvenilia) to show us an author in the making.

Note: Love and friendship (1790) is available in many formats and manifestations. My first copy was in RW Chapman’s edition of her Minor works, but this time I read it on my Kindle using a bought version, the Oxford World Classics edition titled Catharine and Other Writings. However, you can read (or obtain) it online at Project Gutenberg.