Jane Austen's Juvenilia:
Reason, Romanticism, and Revolution
The Ohio North Coast Region invites you to our 2020 AGM, the first to focus on Austen’s youthful writings since 1987. In Cleveland, we will focus our attention on the writings of Austen’s youth, up to and including the epistolary novel Lady Susan. Jane Austen’s early writings are celebrated for their frank and humorous portrayals of human nature, and for the surprising skill of their young creator.
Arguably a child of the Age of Reason, Austen also engaged with the Romantic Movement in these early works. She grew up in a time of Revolution and changing ideas. The conference will explore the popular and political culture that both influenced Austen’s youthful writing and informed her audience of family and friends.
When Austen’s ”Volume the Second” was published in 1922 under the title Love & Freindship, general readers as well as respected critics including G. K. Chesterton, Virginia Woolf, and R. Brimley Johnson responded with enthusiasm. Some read these exuberant teenage writings as apprenticeship work, practicing for the real art of her novels that would come later. Others saw value in these fictions in their own right, placing them among great satirical and romantic works Austen would have read as a teenager.
A complete collection of Austen’s youthful writings was finally issued in 1954 when R. W. Chapman added the volume “Minor Works” to the Oxford Illustrated editions of Austen’s work. Despite the flurry of excitement prior partial releases of her juvenilia had inspired, Chapman stated in his 1954 Preface “[t]hese immature or fragmentary fictions call for hardly any comment.” With respect to the great Chapman, we disagree. We find endless sources of discussion in Austen’s early works.