Juvenile Jane Austen

Randomhouse_loveandfreindship_1_7f2809a3-9869-438b-8a0b-059008ebaffeLouis B. Jones at Threepenny Review:

Let’s not pretend romance isn’t always the most important thing. Let’s not pretend romance is somehow beneath us, or trivial, or just for girls. The choice of a mate is maybe the most consequential decision anybody makes. And this is particularly true in a materialistic, capitalist society, where (this was one of Jane Austen’s constant concerns) marriage is—apart from the love thing, of course, and the religion thing—a civic institution, government-regulated, for the preservation of property, and property’s legal transmission. The most important skill a girl can acquire is insight—insight into men’s true character. And women’s real motives. The precocious experiments that are collected miscellaneously in Love and Freindship: and Other Youthful Writings(where the misspelling of “friendship,” Jane’s own, has been preserved by the editors throughout) reveal that even at the age of fourteen, the girl from rural Hampshire, seventh child in a family of eight, already had the peculiar attitude, mixing deep exasperation with fondness, that characterizes all her later writing. And this Penguin paperback—cheap at sixteen dollars, well bound for longevity, conveniently zuhandlich in its little mass-market trim size, legibly printed on the tender old “Penguin Classics” paper stock, wisely annotated—will make a rewarding addition to any Jane-lover’s library.

Miss Austen rose out of a vast (as she herself saw it) treacle swamp of eighteenth-century female writing and she reordered the genre, reordered it inimitably, so that readers forever after will, in her, treat courtship’s comedy with a little of the deadly seriousness it warrants.

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